Stomp Out Malaria in Zambia

By Jahtay Teh
April 25, 2016

I walk out of my hut to visit my host family. This has become an almost daily ritual.

The view of their yard is blocked by a little store-turned-storage area. It’s sticks wrapped in plastic just to differentiate inside from outside. 

As I go around it I see fire coming from the insaka, covered by the night’s dark. My family is cooking dinner. I say, “odi” and wait for the response, “kalibu.” Everyone is there: my mother, five sisters and two brothers (my father is in town selling baskets). 

Cynthia lays on a sack bag on the ground, neither moving or making a sound. She started to feel the signs of malaria yesterday and went to the clinic the next day. Usually by this time the symptoms are subsiding. So, I ask about her. 

My mother tells me that they went to the clinic but there is no medicine. They also have no tests. The office that supplies them has run out. For a short time they were prescribing quinine but even this drug of last resort has been used up by the community. The nearby market has some, but they don’t have enough money to afford it, so they just give Cynthia medication for the pain and fever and hope it passes. 

This story is not one in a million. This is the common face of malaria in the developing country of Zambia. 

As Peace Corps Volunteers, we work to sensitize communities to the dangers of malaria and coax them into sleeping with mosquito nets and taking precautions when out at night. However, even with our ever-present warnings, there is still a proclivity to not use the nets for the intended purpose. We often hear of people using them as fishing nets, wedding gowns and even wrapping dead bodies in them before burial. 

Therefore, we have looked at a new way of marketing them like offering beatification tips, and making them easier to hang. Bill Gates dubbed the mosquito the most deadly animal in the world, but relatively little has been done to end its rampage. Yes, the “Western World” has done a lot to prevent malaria in the developing world, such as distributing nets, giving out medicine and the like, but what are really needed to end malaria are inventive ideas new approaches and people willing to go the the places where it is most prevalent to aid in enforcing and implementing these changes. 

It is a very realistic goal to end malaria in our lifetime if we start now. 

Jahtay Teh

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