In malaria-prone Mozambique, two girls live very different lives. One is protected by a mosquito net; the other is not. A handful of gossamer threads treated with insecticide makes all the difference.
Ten-year-old Marita Adelino wants only two things — a best friend and a mosquito net. Her yearning for a friend is sketched across her face, a portrait of loneliness.
And the desire for a mosquito net? Marita is terrified of the tiny, sinister creatures that spread malaria, the disease that killed her best friend, Marta Joao, two years ago. Marita cared for her sick friend, cradling her head as it burned with fever, lifting cup after cup of cool water to Marta’s lips.
But malaria won, and now Marita is alone. Her school headmaster says she is a different girl since her friend died.
Malaria, which claimed 660,000 lives worldwide in 2011, is a major killer of African children.
“The saddest thing is that you lose a person not knowing their full capacity — what might have been,” says Chandana Mendis, who directs the Global Fund Malaria Project for World Vision. “These children are the buds, which will never flower.”
Marta’s father, Manuel Joao, 43, has lost four children — three to malaria. Marta was bitten in January 2011, during the high season for malaria when it is hot and wet in Mozambique. Water stands in pools and puddles. Mosquitos breed and bite. Without a treated net, anyone can be a victim.
Malaria is a disease of poverty. An insecticide-treated net can prevent death, but even the few dollars each costs is largely out of reach in Mozambique, where the national per capita income is $470. Farmers like Manuel earn far less than that.
“Malaria is like war,” he says. “But it’s a big war. It’s not a small war. In a war, you can negotiate. But with malaria, you cannot. With war, maybe there is a place of peace. But with malaria, you cannot find a peaceful place. If there was, we would all go there together.”
North of here, in Nampula Province, malaria and mosquitoes couldn’t be farther from Delfina Candido’s mind. There is too much for the third-grader to do today with exams at school and washing her clothes for afternoon choir practice.
The 8-year-old sits on her bed with her two best friends, all under a canopy of mosquito netting, which World Vision provided last year. The girls swing their feet in rhythm, and they talk about their plans to play and jump rope all day after church.
Outside, Delfina’s father, Eduardo, 35, thumbs through his daughter’s Portuguese workbook, mouthing the words out loud. Eduardo grew up during the civil war in Mozambique and missed out on a proper education.
Twenty years ago, Eduardo helped build the road in his community of Namakai, World Vision’s first project in the area. As the country struggled to recover from 500 years of Portuguese domination and a decade of civil war after independence, there was little to build upon. World Vision gave men like Eduardo cash to build roads, and staff distributed seeds and tools so families could begin to farm again. Eduardo became a successful farmer.
Child sponsorship also was introduced. Evidence of sponsors’ generosity and the parents’ work ethic can be seen in Eduardo’s home: Everything is immaculate. The yard is swept baseball-diamond clean, brush strokes still visible.
Two years ago, World Vision provided mosquito nets and training on how to use them in Nampula. Since then, malaria has left Eduardo’s family alone.
“[Before], it was constant,” he says. “It moved from one person to another. It never stopped.”
Community awareness is critical to the success of mosquito net distributions. World Vision staff members demonstrate the correct way to hang nets and conduct spot checks afterward to make sure families are using them correctly. They also encourage latrine use and the practice of filling in puddles and disposing of standing water where mosquitos breed.
“I am grateful for World Vision,” says Aida, Delfina’s mother. “I never knew there was such a thing as a net that would protect me from mosquitoes.
“Before, our prayers were [for] God to protect our family and for our children to be healthy. Now we thank God for everything that He has done.”
Delfina is living the life that Marita craves — thanks to a mosquito net that takes fear out of life and robs death of its sting. In a place without fear and disease, families can flourish. That’s why World Vision is dedicated to defeating malaria in Mozambique, which involves canvassing the country with 2 million mosquito nets, including 700,000 in Zambezia, where Marita and her family live.
Please join us in prayer for the children, families, and communities whose lives are needlessly devastated by this preventable disease. Ask God’s protection for those who are at risk.
Make a one-time donation to World Vision’s Malaria Eradication Fund. Your gift will help provide insecticide-treated bed nets, medical care, malaria prevention education, and other interventions that can save lives in vulnerable communities like these.
You can also give monthly to World Vision’s malaria prevention efforts and bring urgent assistance to even more children, families, and communities at risk.