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At a glance: Sao Tome and Principe

Under the moonlight, UNICEF’s mobile cinema helps prevent malaria in Sao Tome

© UNICEF WCARO/2006/Page
Audience gathers in front of UNICEF’s mobile cinema in the fishing village of Santa Catarina, Sao Tome, for an evening of music and movies interspersed with educational films and discussion on malaria prevention.

By Kent Page

SANTA CATARINA, Sao Tome and Principe, 20 March 2006 – There is no need to dim the lights in the open-air theatre of Santa Catarina, a small, impoverished fishing village on the northern shore of the island of Sao Tome. As the sound of music signals that it is showtime, nature takes care of the lighting.

UNICEF’s mobile movie vehicle is making a stop in Santa Catarina. The vehicle travels from village to village, providing an evening of entertainment (always welcome as there is only one regular cinema on the island) as well as life-saving information.

Typically, upbeat music draws in the crowds, which then watch popular movies followed by short educational films on subjects ranging from malaria to cholera to HIV/AIDS. Afterwards, the audience can take part in a question and answer session.

Tonight, a large screen has been set up under the moonlight. An announcer takes the microphone, telling the crowd that the Santa Catarina mobile malaria movie premiere is about to begin – and that there will be a special guest. It is Xinha, a famous Sao Tomean singer, who has volunteered to perform some of her hit songs and talk about the importance of malaria prevention. An advocate for children, Xinha has worked with UNICEF for three years, popularizing key issues of child survival and child rights in Sao Tome.

Beyond social mobilization

Located 45 km from the capital of Sao Tome and Principe, Santa Catarina is made up of tiny, clapboard huts built closely together and swallowed up into the rainforest-smothered hills that slope down to the ocean. It is a perfect, natural breeding ground for mosquitoes, which helps to explain why this village has one of the country’s highest malaria rates.

The threat is even greater in the rainy season, when 464 of every 10,000 people in Sao Tome and Principe catch malaria, resulting in a 14.8 per cent mortality rate. Yet almost half of all children under the age of five here sleep without an insecticide-treated mosquito bed net.

UNICEF works closely with the government and other partners throughout Sao Tome and Principe to combat the deadly threat of malaria in vulnerable communities like Santa Catarina. In addition to community mobilization and education using the mobile movie vehicle, UNICEF-supported activities include:

  • Distributing mosquito bed nets to pregnant women and families with children under five
  • Training young women in mosquito bed-net production
  • Setting up malaria prevention billboards in high-traffic public places
  • Supporting the development of effective radio and television spots on preventive measures against malaria
  • Providing guidance to national journalists on how to report accurately about malaria prevention.

Even as these efforts continue across Sao Tome and Principe, malaria still causes thousands of child deaths in Africa every day, and UNICEF urgently seeks funding to intensify its malaria-prevention campaign.



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