Having survived two severe bouts of malaria in her lifetime, 15-year-old Tanaka is well aware of the harm that the bite from an infected mosquito can do.
She last fell ill with malaria in 2017, making her just one of 33,769* people who were diagnosed and treated for malaria in Chipinge district, Zimbabwe that year. Still, she was luckier than 23 others who needlessly lost their lives to a preventable, treatable disease.
Floods expose communities to disease risk
In the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, heavy rain and flooding in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, have left communities exposed to the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and malaria.
Malaria in particular is likely to spread because in the aftermath of the flood there is an increase in stagnant water – the preferred breeding ground of mosquitoes that spread malaria.
To keep children and their families safe, Plan International is currently distributing 160,000 mosquito nets in Zimbabwe’s Chipinge and Chimanimani districts in partnership with the Global Fund.
“The cyclone induced floods that have made many families homeless have resulted in a spike of malaria cases in the area. Already, in the last two weeks 33 cases have been diagnosed, up from 11 cases diagnosed a couple of weeks ago,” explains Farai Mafura, a nurse at a health clinic in Chipinge district.
Grateful for the intervention, she says: “This is the most appropriate response for malaria prevention in the district especially after the cyclone. Mosquito nets were last distributed here six years ago and the need is great.”
Mosquito nets save lives
For Tanaka and her family, the risk of catching malaria is high. Their home is located 100 metres from a stream that has swollen in size following the cyclone induced floods, becoming a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes.
As Tanaka goes about her usual chores before sunset, she now has the new responsibility of ensuring the three nets her family has received are hung in place and ready for use at bedtime.
“This net is my life,” says Tanaka proudly. “It will protect me from catching malaria again.”
*According to statistics from the Chipinge District Medical Office