When Leonard was 19 years old, his firstborn became gravely sick. By the time anyone realised that it was severe malaria, it was too late. The baby had convulsions and soon died. It was an experience that drove Leonard to dedicate his life to helping combat malaria.
“When I realised my baby had malaria, it was too late. That pushed me to start working for malaria awareness.”
Now 35, Leonard volunteers at a local health dispensary in the Mahembe community in Kigoma, Tanzania, where he lives. He receives training about malaria prevention and treatment from the Tanzania Communication and Development Center, which receives money from the Comic Relief and GSK partnership to help fight malaria and improve health.
“I always dreamt at one time to help the community when I was older. I feel very good when I help members of my community and some of them get relief because of me. It motivates me to keep working.”
Leonard says it is the memory of his firstborn who died from untreated malaria that drives him. He tells people about his own experiences in the hope they will not have to suffer the same.
“I still have that drive in me and I use myself as an example. I lost my child because of malaria and I try to educate community members that convulsions are one of the most severe symptoms of malaria.”
Malaria is a major public health concern in Tanzania, with children under five and pregnant women most at risk. Some do not know the right action to prevent the disease, or don’t know the importance of seeking early help for symptoms. Others do not trust test results, or stop taking malaria drugs when they start to feel better, without completing the dose.
Funded by the Comic Relief and GSK partnership, the Tanzania Communication and Development Center uses a variety of communication methods to dispel myths and promote life-saving malaria messages in Geita and Kigoma districts. They also work with local community organisations to train community health workers in the prevention and treatment of this deadly disease.