K4A - Group plans to sing malaria out of town
11th May 2010 - News article in The Standard - Kenya

[ Read the original article in The Standard - online version
[ Photos of the day


From left, Rosemary Kahiga and gospel singers
Benjamin Juma and Fredrick Ng’ang’a in an interview.
PHOTOS: EVANS HABIL/STANDARD]

Published on 11/05/2010
By Ally Jamah

The female anopheles mosquito is said to engage a rhythmic, high pitched tune before it launches its blood-sucking bite that sometimes could have lethal effects.

A music group is serving poetic justice to the malaria-carrying insect by singing tunes to help reduce the health damage it causes to the population.

Rosemary Kahiga, a 28 year old musician who lives at Watamu, Malindi District, has coined a unique musical formula that she hopes will strike a forceful blow against malaria.

She has join hands with youths in Nairobi and Mombasa to open a new front in the war against the deadly disease.

With meager resources, Kahiga leads a group of eight youths under the banners Epuka Squad and Bite Fighters to spread information and stimulate action against malaria.

Mixing their campaign with contemporary gospel music, the group turns discussions about the grim subject of malaria into fun activities.

eliminate it

"We are losing thousands of people every year from the disease and we need to do more to eliminate it sooner than the Government’s deadline of 2017," says Fredrick Ng’anga, 25, a Nairobi-based gospel artiste also known as ‘Krax Blaze’.

"Malaria in Kenya is still very bad news. It is the biggest killer of children under five years and affects millions of Kenyans every year," he says.

"We were shocked to realise how much ignorance prevails out there about a common disease like malaria. We want to play our part in spreading the message," said Benjamin Juma, 25, also a gospel artiste with ‘DOD’ as his stage name.

Faced with such a grim picture, Kahiga says she and her team decided not to not just sit back and lament about the situation.

Recently, the group staged their first music concert at Watamu Village to talk about malaria. More than 300 people were pulled in by the allure of gospel music churned out by Krax Blaze and DOD among other invited artistes.

Between the music sessions, Rosemary took the stage to bring to light facts about the mosquito and the deadly "missiles of parasites" it packs in its tiny body".

They talked about how to identify a mosquito that is likely to be carrying malaria. It approaching with a stinging melody then goes silent when it lands on the skin.

"Do not listen to its bad music, do everything to keep it away. Use the nets, apply repellents, spray the room, drain stagnant water, cut the grass around the house," said Kahiga between intervals of the music.

It was fascinating to see how the group members fire away facts about malaria.

"We want every Kenyan to understand that malaria is not to be taken lightly. It is a major killer which must be countered seriously. People should be told why they need to sleep under treated nets and to go for diagnosis when they fall sick," explained Kahiga.

A one-hour DVD recording of the performance and the message was distributed widely to the audience.

protect families

"We entertain them and in between we stress why they should not take malaria lightly. We urge them to protect themselves and their families by sleeping under treated nets and going for professional treatment when they suspect they have malaria," explained Kahiga.

The group organised the Watamu concert entirely from their own contributions.

"Many people assumed somebody had funded us, but indeed we funded the outing ourselves because we really believe we need to do something against malaria," said Kahiga.

After Watamu, the group shifted the battle to Nairobi, where they hosted another music show in Cameo Cinema. A large audience attended and were furnished with the anti-malaria message.

The group later conducted a conference at the same venue that brought together mainly youths. Discussions revolved around the dangers of malaria and how to ensure the message of combating it reaches all the corners of the country.

According to Kahiga, the group is planning more aggressive events across the country in the coming weeks.

like-minded

"Don’t underestimate the power of a small group of like-minded people to make a difference. I know it sounds a tall order but I know we can do it," said Rosemary.

"It remains to be seen whether the Government will incorporate such groups as ours within their strategy to defeat malaria," said Kahiga.

She, however, says the group will continue to look for ways of raising funds to sustain the anti-malaria campaign, whether or not they get support from the Government.?

  Contact Rosemary Kahiga for more details.