Health – 25 April 2018

World Malaria Day: Preventing the disease in Mombasa

In the city of Mombasa, on the coast of Kenya, malaria is prevalent and children are most at risk of infection. The SOS Children’s Village in Mombasa is combating the disease through an effective prevention campaign.

“Mosquitoes are a problem in Mombasa all year round. But March to June and October to December are the worst seasons when mosquitoes can thrive well because of the rains during these periods,” says Ireneous Kombe, Programme Director, SOS Children’s Villages in Mombasa.

While there are several diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, including dengue fever and the Zika virus, the deadliest is malaria, killing nearly half a million people each year with 90 percent of the cases occurring in Africa.

Mombasa is particularly at risk of malaria infection due to environmental conditions in neighbouring communities which allow the mosquitoes to breed and spread the disease after flooding.

Statistics show that most malaria-related fatalities are among children under five years old, and children in this age group are the main beneficiaries of SOS Children’s Village Mombasa, says Ms Kombe.

Another malaria risk factor is the poor health of the children at the time they join their SOS families.

“The children are often orphans from the rural parts of the country. Most of the time, they are malnourished at the point of admission and their immune system is weakened. This means they can get easily infected with the disease,” explains Ms Kombe. 

To protect its children, SOS Children’s Village Mombasa started to implement its malaria prevention campaign in 2010, which is showing results. 

“Whilst eradication has been achieved in many wealthier countries, our campaign now focuses on more modest goals of malaria control and the prevention of unnecessary deaths,” she adds.

Measures undertaken include the draining of stagnant water where mosquitoes can lay their eggs and encouraging nearby households to cover stored water and pretreat sewer systems with insecticides.

All children in the village sleep under mosquito nets that have been pretreated with an insecticide, houses are fumigated and mosquito nets are fixed on all windows to prevent the pests from entering.

“Nowadays, we rarely get cases of malaria amongst the children in the village,” says Ireneous Kombe.

She adds that before the SOS families, children undergo a health check at a local hospital: “Sometimes they come while infected with malaria, however, once this is discovered, treatment is initiated immediately.”

The children also play an active role in the prevention measures and have lessons which focus on preventable diseases including malaria.

“They are taught how to keep the compound clean to ensure that there is no stagnating water around their house.”

Since, mosquitoes like to breed in hedges and lawns, the children also help with keeping these trimmed.

“We also teach them about the importance of sleeping under a treated mosquito net at night,” adds Ms Kombe.