Friday, April 22, 2011

World Malaria Day: April 25

**World Malaria Day,instituted by the World Health Assembly in May 2007, is a day for recognizing the global effort to provide effective control of malaria

I remember this time last year writing with such desperation about the problem with malaria at the orphanage. The children had recently moved into a new home on a large plot of rural land. Malaria, however, was rampant at their new location.

So many house mothers and children were suffering from it when I visited the
orphanage in January 2010. Three of the children died that year because of malaria – one boy was ten, the other two were just babies.

The deaths were a shock to the orphanage – never before had they lost so many children at once.

On 33 acres of rural land neighbouring a national game reserve, you can imagine how bad the mosquitoes were. The children were getting bit while playing soccer at dusk, or sitting on the stoop of their houses after the sun went down.

The real problem, however, was that mosquitoes were breeding in the latrines. It was discovered that the House Mothers – possibly in an attempt to be frugal- were not pouring into the latrines enough of a special fluid that kills off the mosquitoes.

Once this problem was resolved, the situation did improve. While there continues to be some cases of malaria, it has not been nearly as bad. This year when I visited the orphanage, not one person was suffering from malaria (although the flu was making the rounds).

The situation at the orphanage is just a sample of what goes on across the country.

Malaria will always be a part of life in Uganda.

The Malaria Control Programme of Uganda states that: “malaria is responsible for more illness and death than any other single disease in Uganda. Those with low immunity, such as pregnant women, children under five years and people living with HIV/AIDS- are particularly

Malaria kills about one million people every year mainly, children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa. Uganda has the third highest rates of infection in Africa.

The experts are trying to do something about it.

Just this past week, it was reported that Uganda is testing three new vaccines that may help to prevent malaria. The vaccine is expected to prevent malaria in at least 50% of cases.

When it comes to treating malaria, the World Health Organization is recommending a new form of treatment that is safer to use than that which is normally used (quinine). I guess it’s not unusual though that the problem is that the new treatment (artesunate) costs up to three times more.

It’s frustrating, I know.

But, the one thing I’ve learned from being involved in the orphanage is that we can make a difference. By supporting charities that focus on malaria in Africa, you are helping to find a cure, test vaccines, ensure everyone has a bed net to sleep under and access to medications when they need it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Helping our children succeed in school

During my recent trip to Uganda I learned that some of the orphanage’s older girls are struggling in school. Their grades are low and there is a real threat that at least one of them may not pass.

In Uganda, school is especially challenging because there are simply too many students and not enough teachers. I visited their school – dark classrooms with concrete walls and rows of tables to accommodate up to 100 students for every class with one teacher. There are no opportunities for extra help from the teacher or tutoring.

We want all of the children at the orphanage to do as well as they can in school. And so, our team has created a special program to have one of the older children, Veronica, tutor the others.

Veronica has completed her final years of senior school and is applying to university, aiming for a fall acceptance. In the meantime, she is taking a computer class, as this will be critical for university. In the evenings, she will be tutoring the other students to help them pull up their grades. She plans to spend 1.5hours every evening with one student.

This tutoring program began April 1.

In return for her efforts, we will be paying Veronica a ‘salary’. I have spent considerable time talking to Veronica about her day-to-day expenses and we have agreed on a salary of $55/month. This will cover her transportation fees back and forth to school, toiletries, internet access and other personal items. She has also agreed to put $15 of that money aside every month to save for university.

I’m excited about this program because it’s a win-win for everyone involved. Veronica will have her first work experience, and learn to budget money for university. The girls who are struggling with their studies will, for the first time ever, have someone who can spend time with them and help them succeed.

Our funding is making all of this possible – we’re helping all of these children grow and do well in their studies.

Thank you, as always, for your continued support.