Education is the Key
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ~ Nelson Mandella
Education is one of the key components of the Healing Faith Malaria Program. Without education there is no buy-in to what we are trying to accomplish. Healing Faith’s main objective is to share the love of Christ with the people of Uganda. We can help show that love by providing valuable education regarding a disease that is preventable, treatable and curable. Without knowledge you are fighting against an unknown enemy. How can you expect to win a battle when you don’t know your enemy?
As we have shared many times before, a majority of the people we encounter in the village do not know that malaria is caused by a mosquito. Many believe that malaria is caused by an evil spirit, a curse or even a sin they have committed. If you do not know that a mosquito causes malaria, why sleep under a net?
One of the other battles we are fighting is the knowledge on how to take the life-saving medication that is available. The government provides, or is supposed to provide, health care in Uganda. Much like many other countries, the healthcare system is overrun with more people than nurses and doctors and overrun with more people than medication. Transport to get to the government hospitals is a prohibitive cost for many people. Therefore many rely on the local, privately owned clinics and pharmacies to receive treatment and buy medication.
Meet Ronit and her mother. Ronit had a very high fever when we met her, she was hot to the touch. Her mother explained to us that Ronit had all the signs of malaria, so she started her on Coartem. Coartem is one of the medications available to fight malaria which can be bought over the counter in any pharmacy. Her mother could not afford both the test for malaria and the medication, so she opted to just by medication. The problem with Coartem is that a full dose can be expensive. A full dose is 6 pills taken over a three day period. The local pharmacy sells each pill for 200 Ugandan Shillings, about 6 cents in US dollars, for each pill. For a full dose for a child her size and age that would come to 1,200 shillings or about 36 cents US. This is a big deal when someone in the village is living off $1.25 a day.
Ronit’s mother only had enough money to buy two pills. She knew the signs of malaria, knew how it should be treated, but only had enough money for 1/3 of the treatment required. This is not an uncommon story, it happens far too often.
We also met Alexa, she too was suffering from malaria. She was fortunate in the fact that her mother had enough money to get her to the government hospital for testing and treatment. She was unfortunate in the fact the she tested positive and that the government hospital sent her home with only one day’s worth of medication and no instructions to the mother to buy more.
Not taking the full dose of treatment leads to medications losing their effectiveness against malaria if not taken in the full dose. In essence it can create a super strain of malaria that becomes resistant to Coartem. This has already started happening in some other countries and is wildly reported with the drug Quinine. We were able to assist Ronit’s mother & Alexa and arrange provisions for her to get a full dose of the medication as well as provide her education regarding medication.
On that same day I met Kato, he was also suffering from malaria. Kato was lucky, his father had enough money to provide the necessary drugs to fight the malaria raging in his body. However, the key factor the father lacked was education. His father bought Coartem pills and two pills to help reduce his fever. Unfortunately his father did not receive education or instructions on how to take the medication. His father told me he had taken two pills first thing yesterday morning and two pill this morning and that he was saving the fever reducer for tomorrow morning. It was wonderful that his father knew what drugs his child needed and that he was able to provide. Yet, without education, the treatment was ineffective. The good news is we were able to help make provisions for the correct regimen of medication and provide the proper education to his father.
Education is key, without it we are fighting a losing battle. I am thankful that God has placed Healing Faith in Uganda to help educate regarding malaria and even more excited that God is using malaria education as a way to show His grace and His love to the people of Uganda.