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By: Elizabeth McKee Gore

Teaching Malaria Prevention through Art

June 15, 2017
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Oruchinga Refugee Camp, Uganda
Wednesday, March 11

Imagine how you would teach a classroom full of children from four different countries, speaking six different languages, and with generally low literacy rates. The Oruchinga refugee camp hosts close to 3,000 refugees, mostly from Rwanda but also including refugees from Burundi and the DRC. We had the privilege to visit the primary school within the camp, which actually brings together both refugee and national (Ugandan) students. Gavin DeGraw and Tom Cavanagh talked to the young students about malaria and shared the news that after school, the children would be receiving bed nets. In one class, Tom asked how many had ever suffered from malaria. Every student raised their hand…
Not only do the teachers work hard to help the students retain their lessons in spite of all the obstacles mentioned above – they also are teaching the children about health! The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) requires the teachers to educate the students on malaria control. And we were about to see just what that means.  

Just before the net distribution started later that day (our last to achieve complete coverage in Orunchinga, yay!), we were given a presentation by nine students from the primary and secondary schools. These kids had won an art contest and got to present their drawings to the “famous Americans.” To our complete amazement, the school art contest was themed “Stop Malaria.” 
Each young person, including three girls, presented their very own masterpiece. The drawings depicted cutting grass, cleaning up stagnant water, sleeping under nets and getting treatment at the clinic. My favorite showed what would happen if a family did not sleep under their net – let’s just say it was a photo-like depiction of barf and poo…it got a good laugh from us Americans and the students alike. 
The children that won did not actually all speak the same language and were refugees from different homes, but they communicated perfectly through their art. We left incredibly impressed with the school’s ability to get the message across that nets save lives, even without words.

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