The most common health threats to students at Raise the Roof Academy include Malaria, Typhoid, HIV/AIDS, respiratory infection, water insecurity, and malnutrition. This month, we are focusing on Malaria! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, “In areas with high transmission, the most vulnerable groups are young children, who have not developed immunity to Malaria yet, and pregnant women, whose immunity has been decreased by pregnancy.” Because of the significant health implications, we see great value in educating our students about malaria and different methods of prevention and treatment.
According to a report by the World Health Organization, “5 countries accounted for nearly half of all malaria cases worldwide [in 2017]”: Uganda, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, and India. While Malaria cases have been reported in more than 100 countries, a vast majority occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. Uganda alone makes up 4% of Malaria cases worldwide, with more than 11.6 million confirmed cases in 2018. Bwasandeku is not isolated from this issue; our school nurse sees up to 40 Malaria cases each week.
Symptoms of Malaria include headache, nausea and vomiting, rigors, seizures, high fever, abdominal pain, joint pain, anemia, jaundice, general malaise, hypoglycemia, dehydration, and splenomegaly. If untreated, Malaria often leads to more serious complications that increase the likelihood of fatality.
At RTRA, we recognize the social and economic impact that these diseases can have as well. For example, people who contract Malaria face expenses for travel to a health clinic, expenses for treatment and medicine, lost days of work, and absences from school. The Ugandan Ministry of Health estimates that a single episode of Malaria costs Ugandan families an average of nine U.S. dollars. While this seems inexpensive for most of us in the United States, keep in mind that many of our students live on less than $1 per day.
Currently, our students are in the middle of the rainy season, which runs from March until May. This season brings ripe conditions for Malaria to spread. Heavy rainfall creates stagnant pools of water, which act as breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Larger mosquito populations increase the threat of Malaria. For people in our community to receive care, they often have to travel between 8 and 21 kilometers, which is prohibitive for many who need medical attention. Therefore, we find it necessary to prioritize education surrounding preventative measures such as insecticides, clearing brush, closing windows at dusk, and staying away from stagnant pools of water. One of the best ways to prevent malaria is by using an Insecticide-Treated Mosquito Net (ITN). An ITN serves as a barrier between the mosquito and the individual. Furthermore, it ensures that the mosquito dies upon contact with the net.
At RTRA, we are committed to fighting Malaria! Would you like to join us? There are a couple ways you can help! On May 3rd, we will be hosting our Friends for Health Benefit, which will support the RTRA Health Initiative. 100% of the proceeds will go toward child and community health in Bwasandeku! We also have sleeping kits that you can purchase for our students, which include ITNs to help prevent malaria. We invite you to join us as we make strides to reduce malaria in Bwasandeku, Uganda!