Bonde la Ruvu Lutheran Parish
Pare Diocese, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania
Pastor Andrea Senkoro received malaria prevention and treatment training in 2010 when at the Mwanga Parish. He was Northern District Pastor at that time. From there, he went to Usangi Parish. He has served Bonde la Ruvu Parish since January 2014, replacing Pastor Mmwiri who is furthering his studies at Makumira University near Arusha
As district pastor, he encourages the other pastors in his district to talk about malaria in their congregations; malaria is included on the agenda for district pastor meetings. Pastor Senkoro wraps malaria education into comprehensive wellness programming he provides his congregants, including proper sanitation, safe water handling, economic capacity and malaria.
Malaria is talked about in sermons and at crusade meetings. “Ignorance is a hindrance to malaria sensitization,” says Pastor Senkoro. He noted the taboo about sleeping under a bed net, that it is like being buried or inside a grave. People who have not received schooling, like the Maasai in the congregations he serves now, hold more tightly to traditional beliefs so it’s more difficult to get them to change their behavior. For instance, when a child show symptoms of malaria, they may believe that child is bewitched and take them to a witch doctor instead of to a health facility to receive treatment.
In his previous parish (Usangi) Pastor Senkoro found it easier to get people to change their behavior when it came to malaria. The information was well-adopted, but he also had easier access to his congregants as that area had better infrastructure and they receveived more education. It was also a smaller parish.
But Pastor Sekoro says he is not discouraged by slow progress he faces in the new parish. “I’ll never give up,” he says. “Mosquito nets are not enough,” he says. Many families have a large number of children and they can’t all be covered by the few nets they can afford. Inside one boma many people can be infected which makes it easier for it to spread to others. “To be attacked by malaria is very easy,” says Pastor Senkoro.
Combating malaria “must be the duty of many stakeholders.” He believes the church, both leaders and lay members, and the government all must take part in efforts to reduce malaria deaths.
When he came to Bonde la Ruvu Parish, he found there was already awareness about malaria among the congregants. The previous pastor had been quite active in malaria education and used several approaches to educate the members, including dramas and poems by the youth.
There have been no malaria deaths yet this year in the parish; however, there were three women who miscarried while they were sick with malaria.
The pastor actually had malaria at the time of this interview (he stays in congregants homes when he travels from congregation to congregation and often sleeps without a net because there isn’t one for him there). But he recognized the symptoms early and sought treatment. He had just completed his dose but was still feeling sick. “I’m giving you a smile but it’s not my real smile,” he said while I took his photo.
The parish has 28 congregations and the geographic area covered by his parish is 165 km in diameter. 15 evangelists also serve the parish; each serves 2 or 3 congregations.