Healthy Athletes in Africa launches Family Health Forums and a ground-breaking Malaria Awareness Campaign

November 15, 2011

As part of the most recent Lions Clubs International grant, their Foundation has made seed funds available to Special Olympics to implement programming designed to offer health information direct to parents and caregivers of our athletes; as well as position Lions Clubs to speak to the group to orient all as to the social services Lions Clubs provides to the community. These are known as the “Family Health Forums” (FHF)

The Malaria Mascot helps raise awareness

The Malaria Mascot helps to raise awareness of the dangers of malaria.

Educating the Community

This initiative is tied to Special Olympics global goal of building communities through the participation of families and caregivers.

The first FHF was held in the town of Delareyville, South Africa. Many influential figures, members of the community, families and Special Olympics South Africa (SOSA) athletes gathered at the Lilian Lehetla Special School to celebrate the opening of their new facilities.

SOSA felt that it was a great opportunity to offer families the chance to engage with a healthcare professional and ask questions concerning the health needs of the intellectually disabled.

Among the many distinguished guests were Lions Club member Riana Pape, Mrs. Mamokobo and Mr. Dimpe, from the Department of Health, and Mr. Mosimane from the Department of Sports.

The key message of the day was delivered by Mr Mosimane, who stressed the importance of participation in sports and the positive effect that sport has on the quality of life for both adults and children.

A talk on the hearing and speech impediments related to Intellectual Disability (ID) was delivered by Mrs. Nomonde Mtshazo, an Audiologist and Special Olympics volunteer. She specifically covered the symptoms that families of people experiencing hearing difficulties could recognise.


Incorporating Malaria Awareness

According to UNICEF Malaria kills one child every 30 seconds, about 3000 children every day. Over one million people die from malaria each year, mostly children under five years of age, with 90 per cent of malaria cases occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Healthy Athletes in Africa is now addressing this very real threat to the health of our athletes through “Malaria Awareness” educational sessions held under the umbrella of FHF.

The awareness campaign was launched at a FHF event in Thohoyandou, South Africa.
450 Participants attended the event which was held in conjunction with a Municipal Walk for the Elderly, and a Special Olympics South Africa (SOSA) Floor Hockey Tournament.
The participants included family members, athletes and supporters from the community.

Mr. Jackson Magidi from the Limpopo Dept. of Health and Social Development’s “Malaria Control Program” conducted the Malaria Awareness session. He provided not only basic information on infection, symptoms and prevention, but also, and perhaps most importantly, information about the breeding habits of mosquitos and how to manage stagnant water pools in their immediate environment. At the end of the session, SOSA was also very happy to be able to hand out Tabard, a mosquito repellent which both athletes and family members can use for protection when outdoors.

A second FHF Malaria Awareness event was held in Tanzania where the approach was slightly different with a more practical component being incorporated as athletes and family members participated in eradicating stagnant water pools on the school premises.
The session was facilitated by Dr. Juma Mwanandi Mwankemwa from Mwananyamala Hospital and the Chairperson of Special Olympics Tanzania. 

Dr Mwankemwa also educated the participants on how malaria infection occurs, how to prevent infection, and what to do when a person in infected. Malaria is rife in Tanzania and has the potential to result in an intellectual disability if untreated; he therefore emphasized how important it is for parents to bring their children to hospital at the first sign of malaria instead of taking them to witch doctors and traditional healers.

The event was attended by a senior representative of Lions Club in Tanzania, Mr. Frank Ngoyayi. Speaking in the seminar, Mr. Ngoyayi said that Lions Club is working to enhance the welfare of society and that what Special Olympics is doing is in line with the Lions Club objectives

Overall there was an overwhelmingly positive response from participants. Healthy Athletes in Africa is committed to conducting more of these sessions and to providing our Special Olympics families with the best tools to ensure that our athletes are leading healthy and active lives.

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