The sight of parked commercial trucks stretched for miles along the main road in Kazungula is not an unfamiliar sight. A border town located adjacent to Zambia and Zimbabwe, Kazungula serves as the gateway for cargo trucks to transport goods from South Africa up the African continent as far as the Democratic Republic of Congo. These trucks wait in line for their turn at the weighbridge or to board the ferry to cross the river anywhere between hours to days.
However, this time the long line of vehicles that was slowly gathering at 6 am on the morning of April 21st was something entirely different. Rather than normal sight of massive trucks brimming with goods, it was a convoy of vehicles plastered with colorful stickers, proudly displaying the flags of many countries and appropriately the lead vehicle was a truck- a massive, low bed truck decorated in blue carnival flags with a group of people on board with banners in their hands.
This was RAM 2: the 2nd Race Against Malaria, a multi-country initiative, and the convoy was about to embark on a 12 km parade towards a malaria event that was being held in the township of Kasane before departing for Namibia to continue their tour throughout the southern African region.
In partnership with Roll-Back Malaria (RBM), countries in Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) organized a campaign, which consists of convoys of national malaria teams driving all the way from Lilongwe, Malawi (April 14) to Odnjiva, Angola (April 25). This is the second time the race has been held in hopes of strengthening existing cross-border collaborations among southern Africa countries in malaria control and elimination efforts, as well as promoting malaria awareness among local communities along the way.
The RAM2 convoy, which consisted of stakeholders from countries including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Cuba, and Switzerland, arrived in Botswana on Sunday April 20th. The Botswana Ministry of Health and all local government agencies in the Chobe District organized a short half-day community event on malaria in the township Kasane, as well as a malaria-testing booth for truck drivers at the Kazungula border the following day.
As the agenda of the malaria event on the 21st was severely time-restricted, Peace Corps Volunteers on the event team assisted the organizers in strengthening the advocacy aspect of the event, incorporating new innovative and appealing ways to urge community members to attend the event that was taking place on a public holiday. The Peace Corps Volunteers came up with the idea of leading the parade with a “float” in addition to the standard microphone announcements, as well as to dress up in mosquito costumes.
The theme of the float was written on the banner that stated, “O ishireletsa jang mo malaria?” which translates to, “how are you protecting yourself from malaria?” A crowd of Botswana Red Cross Peer Educators held signs with anti-malaria messages and dressed up in conical bed nets. The four participating Peace Corps Volunteers were dressed up as mosquitos and loudly greeted every individual who came across the float as it moved. At the event, the mosquitos walked around with their signs and used their costume as conversation starters with event attendees.
The community event consisted of entertainment embedded with malaria-messages and QA sessions with prizes took place following speeches from prominent figures, including the Botswana Minister of Health, the representative from the World Health Organization, the local headsman of the Kasane township, and the leading representative of the SADC Military Health Services. Despite the event being held on a public holiday, it attracted a large crowd and the community members were extremely engaged with the on-going activities.
The RAM 2 convoy departed for Namibia on the same day, and it was safe to say that the turn up in Botswana did not disappoint. Perhaps if the four female anopheleses could properly learn how to dance like the dance troupe that performed that day, the crowd would’ve been even bigger.