Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mosquito Piñata!

I wanted to teach the neighborhood kids about malaria for malaria awareness month and in preparation for World Malaria Day last Wednesday, April 25th. Anna and I also wanted to interact with the neighborhood kids in a way that wasn’t us yelling at them for provoking our dog. So a few weeks ago I lovingly created a bright blue (we had food coloring lying around the house, why not?) paper mache mosquito piñata, complete with wings, legs, a large stinger, and candy inside. Last Monday afternoon, as a lead-up to World Malaria Day, Anna and I gathered the neighborhood kids outside our front gate. We showed them the mosquito and promised that it was full of candy that they would receive at the end (yep, I’m not above bribery). I talked to them about malaria transmission, prevention, symptoms, and treatment, and we reviewed each of these points a few times. Each time a neighbor would walk over and ask what was going on I would ask the kids to explain to them. And happily a few of them would excitedly yell something about malaria or mosquitoes.
A few of the older kids (probably 4-6 grade) had already learned some of the basics, like that mosquitoes transmit malaria, that mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, or that you can protect yourself by sleeping under a bed net. What surprised me was that even the kids who knew this much couldn’t name the symptoms of malaria. Honestly I’m not sure what means. Is it a classic case of aid in developing countries: bombard people with marginally useful information (for example, telling people to “always use their mosquito net” is only useful when every person has a bed net) but not tell people who malaria actually looks or feels like? (I have been told that you literally feel like you’ve been hit by a bus when you have malaria, your body aches and you can’t move, in addition to the nausea and headaches. Put this in contrast with the common PCV complaint that any runny nose or indigestion in Mozambique might be called “malaria” by our colleagues and friends.)
After I made the kids repeat a few malaria basics enough times that I was satisfied they would remember even if they didn’t want to, the fun began!
The youngest kids speak little to no Portuguese (kids in Mozambique often don’t learn Portuguese until they enter 1st grade), but I think they had a good time all the same! See more pictures I posted at

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