In 2016, 13-year-old Patrick started to feel ill while his mother was out farming. He began to vomit, had diarrhoea and was shivering. Then his joints started to hurt and his body and his head ached. He was experiencing the early symptoms of malaria, the disease that had already claimed the life of his older brother.
“I started feeling very sick and didn’t know what to do. I was vomiting and had diarrhoea. I had joint pain and my body ached and my head ached. My mum was not around and I couldn’t call anybody. I waited and waited until my mum showed up.”
Patrick’s mother immediately knew her son was very sick and he was rushed to hospital. Doctors told him he had severe malaria and he was admitted for three days of vital treatment. Eventually, his condition improved enough to be sent home.
“She took me to the hospital and they tested me and realised I had severe malaria. I was in hospital for three days. I was given some medicine and allowed to go home. I feel fine now, but have a little bit of pain in my shoulders and back. I was very scared. I thought I was going to die.”
Patrick learns about malaria in school and from Tanzania Communication and Development Center, which is funded by the Comic Relief and GSK partnership. Mobile video units go into communities to educate residents about malaria prevention and treatment. Patrick has also taken it upon himself to educate his younger siblings and neighbours about malaria, to ensure people stay safe.
“My father died and I have four other siblings. There used to be five, but one died from severe malaria. He was my older sibling. I have educated my younger siblings about malaria and talk to the neighbours and my friends. I’ve learnt a lot from the mobile video units. It helps a lot.”
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.