Published: 21 April 2011 14:30 CET
By Benoit Carpentier in Liberia
The air is hot and humid, and the sun is burning as Cecilia welcomes us inside her house. She lives in the village of Youboro in Grand Gedeh County. She is smiling and happy to see us. “I am always happy to see the Red Cross,” she says. “I know that they have good news for me.”
“I saw some Red Cross people, last week. They came to my house, asked me who was living here. They checked the rooms in the house. They said that they will be bringing a net very soon.”
Cecilia knows very well the value of this net. She and her seven children often suffer from malaria. Her youngest child, Paylicee, is just three weeks old.
“I had malaria many times and, even during my pregnancy, malaria caught me three times,” says Cecilia. “But I am happy because my baby is fine. She is in good health and hopefully I will be able to protect her from malaria with the mosquito net I will get.”
Prevention: the difference between life and death
Two years ago, Cecilia lost her brother. He died of malaria. “He was sick with fever for a long time and then he started to vomit a lot. We were too far from the hospital, it was too late.”
Access to health facilities is a major problem in Liberia, which is almost entirely covered with dense rain forest with very few roads suitable for vehicles. When the rainy season comes in April, most of these roads become impassable for long periods of time, cutting off many villages. In these situations, prevention is essential because by the time you have become ill, it is often too late.
Washington Gborlor is the school principal in Ziway Town, a village bordering Côte d’Ivoire. He teaches to 75 pupils aged from 4 to 14 years old.
Washington loves teaching and is very knowledge about many things because he listens to the radio. When one of the children he teaches gets malaria, he makes the 50-minute drive to town to bring back amodiaquine – the antimalarial drug.
Like Cecilia, Washington lost his brother to malaria five years ago.
“At the time, the road was very bad. It was almost impossible to reach the health centre. My brother was only 35, but malaria killed him in a few days. Now the road is better.”
But when you ask him if he currently uses a net, he says no. “No one ever supplied us with mosquito nets here. That is why I am happy to receive one. No one in the village has one. What I would ask is to continue the effort to help people here because the population is growing and these nets will need to be replaced in a couple of years.”
Education is crucial
Brown B. Bardee, age 50, is also a teacher. He teaches in the town of Zwedru. He his married with four children. Malaria is not a problem for his family, he says. He rarely suffers from it, but he can see that other people in the village are affected by it.
“To control malaria, you need to clean your environment – like clearing away old cans. Also, I sleep under a mosquito net every night.”
Bardee is very worried about education. For him, this is the key to making progress. He is happy that the Red Cross will be distributing the nets, particularly because there will be three nets per household so whole families will be protected.
“People can be educated to understand what to do and how to do it best,” he says. “We need to teach people how to take care of the environment they live in, it is very important.”