Mkola, a mum of nine children and grandmother to five, has first-hand knowledge of malaria. The disease used to be a constant blight on her family’s life: Ten years ago, Mkola got malaria while pregnant and later miscarried as a result. One of her grandchildren also died after contracting the disease.
Back in 2016, when we first met Mkola, she told us that that one of the biggest problems with malaria was not knowing enough about the disease - she used to think that traditional healers were best placed to treat malaria, and her and her family rarely finished medication they were prescribed.
But now two years on, Mkola feels her situation has greatly improved and people in her community are not getting sick as much as before after learning more about the disease thanks to the Tanzania Communications and Development Center (TCDC).
She says: “The biggest challenge was believing that malaria can make someone be mad, and it made us think that malaria was a disease that needed to be addressed by traditional healers. So, it caused even more problems like miscarriages, problems during pregnancy, and many other maladies.
“Amongst the many misconceptions that we had when taking malarial drugs was that we would not finish the recommended dosage – that’s the first mistake. The second mistake was that, even after taking the tablets, and malaria is continuing to be severe, we would still go visit the traditional healers, but the biggest problem we had was not finishing the dosage.”
Mkola says that because of the support from TCDC, she now understands the symptoms of malaria much better and if someone in the family is feeling unwell they go to the hospital to be properly diagnosed. She also knows that sleeping under a bed a net is only one part of the battle, and she understands that she must clear away pools of stagnant water that can become mosquito breeding sites.
Mkola has even been able to pass her knowledge on to other members of the community – and believes that one day, malaria can be eradicated completely.
So far, TCDC has reached 300,000 people across 1,000 villages in Geita and Kigoma, western Tanzania, through their Community Change Agents over the past two years, thanks to funding from Comic Relief and GSK. Fewer people are getting malaria and the communities are the winning the fight. There is still a long way to go as a globally child still dies from the disease every two minutes, but progress is being made, and it’s being driven by deter.