“Without this project, anything could have happened to my son”: Anshal and Wiseman’s story
In September 2019, Anshal and Betsheba were awoken in the middle of the night by their youngest child, two year old Wiseman. “We were terrified,” Anshal explained when we met him in his village of Mupola, Serenje District, Zambia. “Wiseman was very confused, was asking for lots of things and then started convulsing.” For any parent, a convulsing child is a scary prospect, but when you live more than 40 kilometres from health care, it is a terrifying situation to face.
Anshal recalled a neighbour’s child who woke up fitting and screaming several years ago, and how terrified the community were. “People didn’t know what to do or what was happening,” he said. In this case however, Anshal knew exactly how to respond. Earlier that year, he had undergone training as part of the MAMaZ Against Malaria at Scale programme, and volunteers as a Community Health Volunteer. As part of his training, Anshal was taught to recognise the danger signs of severe malaria, and immediately suspected that his son Wiseman had contracted this deadly disease.
Anshal quickly put other aspects of his training into practice, including the administering of a pre-treatment suppository called RAS. This helped calm some of Wiseman’s symptoms, and his parents were able to get Wiseman onto their bicycle. Both parents are farmers, and their large farm is on the very outskirts of Mupola, more than seven kilometres from the centre of the village where the majority of the community live and the bicycle ambulance is stored. They made the journey to the bicycle ambulance as quickly as they could, which included crossing a river; not an easy task with a sick child and in the dark.
They finally reached the bicycle ambulance just as it was getting light, and Anshal took on the task of cycling his wife and their son to the health facility, a distance of more than 35 kilometres. On arrival at the health facility, Wiseman was quickly seen to by the staff there, and given the treatment he needed to recover from severe malaria. This was not the first time their family has needed the bicycle ambulance however. Two years ago when Betsheba was in labour with Wiseman, they also needed to call on this life-saving form of transport. Experiencing complications, Betsheba made the journey to the health facility by bicycle ambulance, delivery safely. In Wiseman’s short life so far, they have needed the bicycle ambulance twice. But thanks to the programme, the story ends well.
Anshal said, “Wiseman is now strong again and playing exactly the way he was before.” He added, “Previously, there was no hope. There were so many cases of severe malaria here and there was nothing anyone could do. Now, I am very happy, without this project, anything could have happened to my son.”
Since 2017, MAMaZ Against Malaria (MAM) has been empowering rural Zambian communities to tackle malaria head-on. Read more about the programme here.