Tomorrow, April 25, 2012, is World Malaria day. I haven't written too much about this devastating disease since we have moved here, and that is probably because it has been one of my worst fears that it would directly affect my family. Guy and I both agree that the WORST thing that could ever happen to us while we are living here is having either Jeremy or Elizabeth contract malaria. For those of you who are unfamiliar with how malaria is spread, click here for more detailed information on what malaria is. But, "in a nutshell", malaria is spread by the female anopheles mosquito. It spreads the parasite called plasmodium. About 40 percent of the world's population are living in malaria endemic regions. These regions are the tropical and sub tropical areas of the world. About 90 percent of the deaths from malaria are in Africa south of the Sahara and most of these deaths are children. In Africa, a child dies every 30 seconds from malaria, and those who do survive often have brain damage or learning disabilities as a result.
Part of the problem of the epidemic of malaria is the lack of education and resources to prevent it from happening. Although, if a person is born in an endemic region and has lived there through the age of five, they are considered partially immune. According to this site, immunity means,
"People residing in malaria-endemic regions acquire immunity to malaria through natural exposure to malaria parasites. Children living in areas of stable malaria transmission become infected early in life, and experience more severe disease symptoms during the first five years of life. But as immunity develops the disease becomes less severe and the number of parasites circulating in the blood declines. The acquired immune response to malaria is strain specific and is lost if a person moves away from a malaria endemic area."
We do take precautions such as not going outside in early morning or staying out at dusk when the anopheles mosquito is most active, and my family has been very blessed that we have been able to afford chemopropholaxis for malaria. There are several different medicines one can take, but we take malarone each and every day. Some people may say " Why give your child a pill every day?" Guy and I talked about it, and we would rather give them this medication and know we tried to do something to combat it than have them get malaria and feel guilty the rest of our lives that we didn't do something to prevent it when we knew it was available to us. Everyone has their own views, but that is ours.
It is heartbreaking to me to read about the cases of malaria and all the suffering, deaths and money spent on malaria treatment on a continent which has so much poverty. According to the Malaria Consortium website, about $12.5 billion dollars a year in Africa is spent just treating malaria. I can't imagine ever being in the position that I couldn't do everything possible to keep my child safe from getting malaria. My heart breaks for the thousands of parents who have lost a child to this disease. I know that even though with all the precautions, malaria is still possible to contract. But, there are so many people on this continent without the basic preventions such as repellent and mosquito nets.
There are several groups who are teaching people in endemic areas about prevention of malaria, and you can click here and here to watch about how one group is helping. Please remember there are so many people in this world who are suffering and even losing children each and every day. Please take the time tomorrow to remember them and know that even though the field of health care has made so many strides in the right direction there is still a deadly disease which is taking so many innocent lives.