SKILLZ Malaria Coaches and participants in Papua New Guinea

Today is World Malaria Day! Together with the ExxonMobil Foundation, Grassroot Soccer (GRS) has developed a soccer-based malaria prevention curriculum that’s implemented by local organizations in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, and Tanzania. The program has been very successful due largely to the strength of our local partners and a passion for soccer among youth in these countries.

Grassroot Soccer’s locally-tailored SKILLZ Malaria curriculum provides interactive lessons about malaria: how it is spread, how to prevent it, and the importance of treatment. Our curriculum focuses on filling key gaps in knowledge and helps motivate adolescents to do their part to prevent and treat malaria in their homes. The impact of Grassroot Soccer programming is linked to the concept of the 3A’s: Assets, Access, and Adherence. The 3A’s framework means ensuring adolescents develop the assets (increased health knowledge and the confidence to use it) they need; that they can access high-quality, youth-friendly services; and that they have the necessary support to adhere to medicines and adopt healthy behaviors over the long term.

ASSETS: What do people learn in GRS malaria prevention programs?
The SKILLZ Malaria curriculum teaches participants why sleeping under a bed net every night can protect them from malaria, explains how malaria can be cured, and lets participants know where they can go to access bed nets and malaria treatment. Participants learn that mosquitoes carry malaria, and that a bed net contains an insecticide that kills mosquitoes but is harmless to humans. If cared for properly, one bed net can help protect a person against malaria for at least three years.


An excerpt from Bed Net Ball instructions, SKILLZ Malaria Coach’s Guide

In the game Bed Net Ball, teams pretend that the ball represents mosquitoes, the blanket represents a bed net, and the Coach represents a health care worker. As a team, players throw the ball as high into the air as they can. When the ball is in the air, all members of the team must get under the blanket and fully cover themselves before the ball hits the ground. The Coach stands 15-20 meters away. If participants don’t make it under the bed net, they run over to the Coach immediately. This activity teaches participants where they can go to access malaria tests and seek treatment if they’re exposed to malaria.

Additionally, players learn how to properly care for bed nets, including what they can do to minimize the risk of malaria, including discarding any open containers that can collect water where mosquitoes can breed; cutting bushes and grass around their house; staying indoors at night if possible; using mosquito spray; and utilizing bed nets to protect themselves and their families. They practice how to discuss malaria prevention and testing with their loved ones.

ACCESS: How do we test for malaria?
A key part of Grassroot Soccer programming is providing malaria testing. Often, testing is paired with a soccer tournament component. Through Bed Net Ball and additional activities, participants learn where they can go in their community to get tested. The parasite can be seen in blood viewed under a microscope. Early treatment reduces the chances of complications. Malaria can also be tested for with a rapid diagnostic test, which is a chemical test, not microscopy.

YEDI malaria testing

Malaria testing in Nigeria (Photo credit: YEDI)

ADHERENCE: How is malaria treated?
Finally, SKILLZ Malaria participants learn why adherence to their full cycle of medicine is important. A key message of the curriculum is that malaria can be cured but it is important to get treated immediately and carefully follow the health care provider’s instructions and complete the medication prescribed to them. Malaria can be treated with drugs. It should be treated as early as possible before it becomes severe and poses a risk to a person’s life. The type of drugs and length of treatment depends where the patient was infected, the patient’s age, and how sick the patient is at start of treatment. Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACT) is a combination of different malaria medicines and is currently the most effective treatment for malaria. In most cases, if these drugs are used, people who have malaria can be cured and all the parasites in their bloodstream can be eliminated in time.

Grassroot Soccer is proud to be working hand-in-hand with our partners to end malaria! For more information, click here.