|   Posted: April 28, 2022

As we remember World Malaria Day on April 25, we honor Amina and her powerful story. “What happened to me should never happen to any other mother,” says Amina. “If it wasn’t for this center and the church, I was going to lose these babies, too.”

Education Empowers Mother, Saves Children

As we remember World Malaria Day on April 25, we honor Amina and her powerful story. “What happened to me should never happen to any other mother,” says Amina. “If it wasn’t for this center and the church, I was going to lose these babies, too.”

Amina and her family

Amina sits under her small, shaded patio in front of her mud brick house, filled with joy as she rocks her 3-month-old twins in her arms. Although she has a smile on her face, her heart bears scars from the pain of losing three precious babies.

Years before, Amina had given birth to twins — boys Waiswa and Kato. Kato died during labor. Heartbreakingly, Amina then suffered a miscarriage that she thought was caused by bewitchment. The doctor’s report, however, indicated that the miscarriage was due to malaria.

When Amina became pregnant again with a baby girl, she chose a traditional birth attendant. Two days after her daughter’s birth, Amina woke up at 7am to nurse the baby. The 2-day-old child was crying incessantly. The baby girl’s temperature had been high for a couple of hours, so Amina had mixed a concoction of local herbs that she hoped would bring down the fever. Her birth attendant had advised her that the herbs would encourage evil spirits to leave the little girl.

“I didn’t know better how to treat a fever then,” says 27-year-old Amina. “I thought that local herbs would do because I had used them for most of my life and all through my pregnancy. We listened to friends and so many people who didn’t believe in clinical medicine.” Fred, Amina’s husband, adds, “We used different concoctions to treat the baby’s fever and steered away from hospitals for fear of being shunned by the community that believed local herbs were the answer to sickness.”

The couple hoped the herbs would cure their daughter’s fevers and banish the threat of death that hovered over her. Instead, the baby became anemic. Her temperature kept rising. Without medical attention, the little girl breathed her last breath.

She was the third child Amina had lost to malaria.

Amina was devastated. Her entire body ached, and her heart felt faint. She blamed herself. “I thought to myself, why didn’t I go to hospital after delivery to find out what was wrong with my baby? I had hope for a girl, but there I was, watching her die.”

Amina’s response to her child’s fever is common in her community. Due to a lack of education and medical misinformation, many locals are suspicious of doctors and don’t believe that malaria is real. William, the chairperson at the Compassion Center in Maanga, Uganda, says locals wondered why Amina had lost so many children and assumed it was because of witchcraft.

In this community, malaria is common. Doctors note that many patients visit traditional herbalists instead of seeing medical professionals. “Most women said that their husbands stopped them from coming to hospital to be educated about malaria and the need for hospital delivery,” says Eunice, a nurse at Masafu Hospital.

Amina's twins - Babirye and Kato

In 2017, Compassion’s church partner, Maanga Baptist Church, launched the Survival Initiative in the community. They support 60 families, teaching mothers about preventing mother-to-child disease transmission, raising healthy children and, importantly, malaria prevention and treatment.

“Before this program, there was a high infant mortality rate. At least three out of 10 children died of malaria every quarter,” says Sam, who is part of the Village Health Team.

After Amina’s loss, Maanga Baptist Church reached out to counsel her and ask if the Survival team could speak with her. Her family resisted because they didn’t trust health professionals and were taking Amina to witchdoctors to help her process her loss. However, eventually her parents agreed. Five months later, Amina was registered in the initiative.

In 2021, Amina conceived twins. “With the pregnancy of the twins, we had grown closer to God. We opened up to receiving medical care and support from the Village Health Team (VHT) that was extended to us,” says Fred. Fred sought church counseling to help with his and Amina’s fear of using clinical medicine.

“When she was pregnant with the twins, the project team brought Amina to the Masafu hospital for antenatal services, and she also agreed to having her first hospital delivery here,” says John, a medical officer at Masafu Hospital.

The local center team then embarked on eradicating a mosquito breeding ground — the bush that surrounded Fred and Amina’s home. The couple also started sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets they received from the VHT and from the center.

“We also helped them to construct a latrine and a kitchen. The family used the plantations as their toilet prior to this,” says John.

On September 16, 2021, at 12:29pm, Amina gave birth to twins at Masafu Hospital: a girl they named Babirye and a boy called Kato, named after his older brother. The children’s birth is a testimony to what a change of attitude, prayer and intervention can do for the hopeless.

Amina and her twins

“I was overjoyed to see my babies, and we received a lot of support from the Survival Initiative and the doctors at Masafu,” says Amina.

“Change is gradual. But the more we have moved the medical services to the communities, with support of VHT and the Survival team, we have seen the malaria infant mortality rates reduce,” says John.

The Survival Initiative’s medical reports from 2020/2021 indicate malaria cases have dropped, with 16 babies and 33 caregivers diagnosed with the disease. In previous years, the figures had been as high as 40 babies and 83 caregivers’ cases. The local leaders believe this reduction is because the community’s attitude towards clinical medicine has changed.

“Before, when our children fell sick, we thought that it was witchcraft, but now we know that the disease is curable,” says William, center chairperson.

Amina now knows how to spot the signs of malaria and how to help prevent it in the first place. When her twins were one month old, they came down with a fever. This time, she didn’t hesitate to inform the center. The couple took the babies to the hospital for treatment, and Babirye and Kato recovered after a few days.

Amina now shares her testimony with mothers in her community, encouraging them to seek medical attention for their babies at any sign of a fever. “What happened to me should never happen to any other mother,” she says. “If it wasn’t for this center and the church, I was going to lose these babies, too.”

Learn More About World Malaria Day