JUNTOS na Luta Contra a Malária!
On Friday, April 20th, two JUNTOS (Jovens Unidos no Trabalho para Oportunidades e Sucesso—Youths United in the Work for Opportunities and Success) groups from neighboring towns met in Chongoene, Gaza province, polish their theater techniques and play soccer. A theater technical trainer came to give the groups feedback on their skits and teach them ways to enhance their performances and better use these performances to communicate messages to the community. Both groups had prepared skits about malaria in honor of World Malaria Day coming up on April 25th. After each group had performed their skits a few times and received constructive criticism, they ended the day with a little friendly competition: a soccer game.
Saturday morning, April 21st, these same two groups met at the Chongoene hospital at 6am and were joined by a third youth group from another neighboring town. At 7am the two groups performed their skits about malaria to the crowd of people waiting to be seen at the hospital. Afterwards, a student from the third group gave a lecture about malaria transmission and treatment. Both skits and the lecture were presented in Changana, the local Bantu language of Chongoene, and evoked much laughter and emotion from the 30+ people watching (not including participants from the youth groups). The skits and lecture described the symptoms of malaria and addressed the importance of going to the hospital, rather than attributing it to witchcraft and visiting the local healer. They stressed the importance of being proactive in malaria prevention, principally, cleaning their yards of standing water and using a mosquito net at night. They also emphasized the importance of taking extra precautions to protect those at greatest risk: children under 5 and pregnant women (this also gave a few of the boys the opportunity to stuff their shirts and put on wigs and skirts—a favorite and necessary component of any high school skit in Mozambique).
The groups decided to capitalize on the early-morning crowd of people who would be gathered outside the hospital waiting for it to open at 7am. Not wanting people’s desire to be treated to interfere with their watching the skits, a few students from the JUNTOS groups took the initiative to number pieces of paper and distribute them to people as they arrived, so that spectators wouldn’t have to worry about guarding their place in line. Not only did this system work spectacularly, but even though the hospital opened while the performances were still going, people waited until the end of the performances before leaving to seek treatment.
The JUNTOS group of Chongoene fittingly ended their skit by proclaiming: “JUNTOS na luta contra a malaria!” meaning, “together in the fight against malaria!” (which is also a play on words, since “juntos” both means “together” and is also the name of the youth group organization).
Scooter Anata Walsh
Malaria Activities Coordinator
Peace Corps Volunteer, Mozambique
“Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us” — Sargent Shriver