Lucy with the daughter

How little Maria was saved from the hand of death

By Mutinta Chiseko, Donor Liaison Manager, Zambia

What started as a normal day for a young mother in Northern Zambia ended up a nightmare.

Nineteen-year-old Lucy Chalwe is a happily married woman who lives with her husband, a peasant farmer, and their two-year-old daughter in a remote rural community called Chilufya. Like most areas in this region, her village is surrounded by a stream and thick bush.

On that fateful day, Lucy woke up to do some household chores before joining her husband in their cassava field. When she was about to leave home for the field, she discovered that her baby Maria had a high temperature.

Lucy thought that something could be wrong with her child but did not put so much mind to it; she instead decided to keep her wrapped to her back the whole time. After a few hours of working in the field, something terrible happened.

“The warmth I was feeling on my back from her body suddenly increased. She became very hot and then had a seizure,” Lucy says. “I was scared; I screamed and quickly unwrapped my baby from my back and put her on the ground.” By the time her husband reached them, Maria’s eyes had rolled upwards.

“I knelt down weeping and looking up to the heavens praying and asking God not to let my little Maria die,” she says.

A few minutes later, Lucy’s husband grabbed Maria and started running towards his father’s house, almost half an hour away, with Lucy following closely behind. When they got there, Lucy’s father-in-law was equally puzzled and told them to rush Maria to Brian, a local community health worker.

Brian is a World Vision-trained and equipped frontline educator and health care provider who sees to it that children under five in his community are tested and get medication and helps their parents learn to seek and prevent illnesses.

When they got to Brian, little Maria seemed lifeless. Maria had a high fever and could barely breathe, says Brian. After a quick examination, Brian gave her some medicine to bring down her temperature and then tested her for malaria, one of Zambia’s most life-threatening diseases caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes.

The test came out positive.

“I had heard about malaria but never understood how deadly it was,” Lucy says.

Brian later gave Maria some anti-malaria drugs, a note, and lent his bicycle to Lucy and her husband to rush their baby to their nearest clinic, located about five kilometres away. Maria stayed in the hospital for about four days before her condition stabilised.

“We were lucky that we discovered that it was malaria in good time,” Brian says.

Thankfully, little Maria is now fully recovered and able to do what she loves the most, playing. Brian has since continued monitoring and sensitising Lucy and her husband about malaria, how it is contracted and prevented.

“Had it not been for World Vision training Brian as a caregiver, we would have likely lost Maria and would today be telling a different story. With Brian’s help, we are no longer at risk; we now have the means to prevent and get treated for malaria,” concludes Lucy with a smile.