"Cleanliness equals prevention! That's what I tell the families in my community," says Stella Rose, who is a Village Health Team member (known as a "VHT") in rural Katakwi, Uganda. As a VHT, Stella teaches households how to practice the kind of sanitation and hygiene behaviors that discourage mosquitoes. "I help families to find sources of clean water," relates Stella, "and I encourage them to build pit latrines and dish racks to keep the standing water away."
(Photo: Stella stands next to a completed dish rack, which helps to reduce mosquito breeding grounds in home compounds. Stella encourages the families in her community to build dish racks and employ other good hygiene behaviors.)
Stella also offers malaria testing and treatment to people in her community who feel sick. She even makes house calls. Her comprehensive malaria training from the Lutheran World Federation (whose program we support through the ELCA Malaria Campaign) has positioned Stella as an expert on malaria prevention and treatment in her community. Together with other VHTs, Stella holds community events to educate her neighbors, and in her one-on-one home visits she makes sure that her neighbors are exhibiting safe malaria prevention behaviors.
Stella wasn't always a malaria expert. "I have a neighbor who had so many health problems," she relates. Before Stella received training from LWF, "my neighbor was 4 months pregnant, and she developed a high fever. I was confused and I didn't know what to do. She started to have convulsions and her skin got yellow. Now I know that this is a result of anemia, but at the time I didn't know. Her baby came out too early. We rushed to the Health Center, which was far away, and she got a transfusion. She spent so much money for her treatment that the family had to sell their cow."
Stella wishes she had known then what she knows now about malaria prevention and control. "If I had this knowledge before, my neighbor's health problems would not have been so bad," she says. "I hope such a scenario will never happen again in our village."
(Photo: Stella Rose works hard to protect, educate and empower the families in her community, the Katakwi sub-county of the Katakwi district in rural Uganda.)
Stella does much more than just hope—as a VHT, she works hard every day to make her dream of a malaria-free future come true for her community. She teaches good hygiene, she helps families take care of their mosquito nets and use them correctly, she connects pregnant women with good pre-natal care, and she is able to intervene immediately when someone falls ill with malaria.
"I speak with pride," Stella says. "Now people know how to fight the enemy: the anopheles mosquito. The majority of people in my community are now using nets and getting treatment. If you go to LWF areas—the five sub-counties where the program is at work—you see the impact."