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Togo: Teenagers tell stories of malaria

These stories were written by young people in Togo who have taken part in Plan’s program to increase awareness of the causes of malaria and prevention techniques.

How sad!
Malaria, you are my enemy
The family
When belief takes the place of reality

How sad!

By Pesseyi, 15 years old

Several weeks has passed since Kodjo has been to school, to everyone’s surprise. In class, we decided to go and see for ourselves why Kodjo didn’t come to school. We decided on a day to go and visit.

The day arrived and we went to this friend’s house. Once there, we received a warm welcome. After saying hello, we told the mother the reason for our visit. According to his mother, our friend was sick with malaria. Worried, one of us asked how this illness had started and how it was able to strike him down like this. The mother replied that at the beginning he had a hot body and headaches and went to hospital. After testing him, the doctor said he had malaria. After his medicine had been prescribed, he was released, but he had to stay at home for a while.

We then went to see our friend in his bedroom and gave him our support. I must say that we were very upset when his mother told us that he refuses to sleep under the mosquito net, saying that it is hot or that he’s not used to it. He missed many lessons. It was sad! Then we told him that he was lucky to have parents who wanted to be good to him, buying him a mosquito net, because not everyone is this lucky.

With this visit, our story ends. It’s important to note that the house of our friend is surrounded by grasses and cans of food. This would probably be the cause of Kodjo’s sickness, especially because he doesn’t sleep under a mosquito net.

We are resolved to help our friend to cut down the grasses and bury the cans. This will put this cruel illness out of reach. It will no longer prevent him from coming to school. But we know there are still many things to do in the village and in other villages to get rid of this illness from the whole world.

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Malaria, you are my enemy

By Cyrille, 13 years old

I’m going to tell you the story of a family who were living in a village where malaria was rife. We commonly call malaria the ‘palu’ in our villages.

There was a family who lived in a village. This family threw their washing water, dishwater and empty food cans out close to their house. One day, their child fell ill and the father went to look for a medicinal plant to prepare, to give to the child. The child’s health worsened but the father said that he had no money.

The next day the mother was working in the kitchen when she heard this on the radio: “Malaria is an illness which kills. If you have malaria you must go to hospital so they can look after you.” At the same time, she explained to her husband what she had heard on the radio. The husband, afraid that he could lose his son, gave her some money so that she could go the hospital with the child.

When she arrived at the hospital, the nurse welcomed them and gave the child an injection. After the injection, he prescribed them some medicines and released them. He advised the wife to sleep under a treated mosquito net to avoid mosquito bites. And ever since she heard the nurse’s advice, the family no longer fall ill from malaria.

Malaria kills many people in our district. It is our number one enemy. When I left this family, I asked myself many questions. What would have happened if this mother had not heard this information about malaria on the radio? Many people die because of this illness because they are not aware of its symptoms and its dangers.

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The family

By Irène, 16 years old

One family, living in Togo, has three children. It was a very poor family, living in very unpleasant conditions. An NGO who had opened up in their area took care of some poor families and this family was one of the fortunate ones who gained from this. The NGO helped these families a lot. One year, the NGO offered all the families treated mosquito nets for their children.

When the malaria net arrived at the house, the father of the family, instead of giving it to his children, took it for himself saying that children and women did not need mosquito nets as it was the men who worked, and therefore they needed to be strong.

As if the die had been cast, two weeks later the three children fell ill, one after the other. After medical tests, they found out that the children had malaria. The father, seeing his children in this state, didn’t do anything but treated them as if they were lazy.

One week, two weeks went by, and the children were still ill. Then the mother decided to take them to hospital and it was there she found out that the children had malaria. What could be done? The father had to help out with some money and sell a little of his harvest to care for his children, because their health had become much worse. He and his wife spent a lot of money to save their children, but unfortunately the youngest of the family, who was only seven years old, died a week later. The father and mother cried, moaned and said that if they had known they would have let their children sleep under the mosquito net.

The damage is now done. Everyone is accusing them of the death of their child. But how many families are in the same position as this one? The grown-ups prefer to sleep under the mosquito net and leave the children, without knowing that they are the most vulnerable. Women and children don’t count!

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When belief takes the place of reality

Josué, 17 years old

"Don’t eat too much red oil (unrefined palm oil)", "stay out of the sun", "if not, you’ll catch malaria". I’ve often heard these sayings in the village, and I didn’t understand them until I was older.

Each time someone had malaria in our community, they said he’d eaten too much red oil — in our community, malaria is caused by red oil and sun.

But personally, I saw that in my village, people throw their washing water out close to their house. Between each of the houses there is grass. They throw their rubbish everywhere, but in spite of this pollution, no-one says anything to them.

I also saw that babies are often ill during the dry season or when it’s very hot. This year it’s already started. When I told my grandfather, he repeated the same sayings: "mothers use too much red oil in their sauces, that’s why babies have malaria." Then I looked at my school notes on the illnesses that we studied, and comparing the symptoms that I’d seen with the notes, I saw that the children had symptoms of malaria. Each year, children die and are buried. However, malaria is an illness that people can avoid and fight.

What can be done in a village where there is no sanitation or health centre? What can be done in a village where people have beliefs like these? I was seen as being too young to talk to the village. With my small voice, no one listened to me; they said that I knew nothing. What to do? Everyone should do something: children, grown-ups, the authorities, it’s our duty to fight for the life of children and adults.

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Learn more about Plan's work in Togo