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The Biggest Killer Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Angela S. Damas, Tanzania Sep 20, 2006
Health   Short Stories
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The Biggest Killer Malaria: The forgotten battle that never forgot us.

Thinking back on how many times I have had malaria is difficult for me. I guess it’s once every three months including the times I go to the hospital and get diagnosed and the times I conclude I have malaria and treat myself.

Hospitals and homes filled with cries, routine decease to many.
(photo by Damaso Reyes in Arumeru hospital-Arusha-Tanzania)

In many African countries malaria is part of life. It seems most of us are used of having malaria.

When we hear a co-worker is sick from malaria, we all give advice about which medication he/she should use and the amount of water and rest they need. It’s just like giving advice to a friend who is looking for a good shop to buy shoes.

Malaria has been with us so long that we feel comfortable with it around us, in us and between us.

Is this because not many people die from malaria? No, Amani Karume, the president of Zanzibar, would disagree with me, as he said, “Malaria is the number one killer disease in most African countries.” I believe many other activists and organizations working on malaria will agree with President Karume.

Most don’t know how many people are infected by malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Maybe we don’t take the fight against malaria seriously enough because we believe it can be cured.

About 100,000 people die of malaria in Tanzania every year. For those who don’t die, , the time a person is sick, the time and money spent treating the disease is good reason to avoid being infected. At least 350 million malaria incidents are reported yearly worldwide.

Maybe it’s about time we all take responsibility in the fight against malaria while looking at all its angles of effects and impacts and comparing them to the ways in which this can actually be prevented. And for our countries to be reminded of the commitment they made in 2000 of providing Insecticide treated nets (ITN) by 2005 for 60% of children under 5 years old and pregnant women.

The importance of the fight against malaria has resulted in some countries which suffered from it winning the battle. In Africa Mauritius and South Africa and Cambodia and Vietnam in Asia are good examples of victory over malaria. These countries are good examples on how to prevent malaria.

Another example of the ongoing fight against malaria can be seen in Tanzania, where the fight has been given priority in the national health budget and special programs. Good results can be seen in Zanzibar off the east cost of Tanzania mainland, where a number of reported malaria cases are decreasing tremendously. Zanzibar residents were able to eradicate malaria some years back. But their attention to malaria waned and it re-occurred. The islands are now almost malaria-free thanks to increased attention and increased government resources.

This emphasizes the need for continuous efforts to keep malaria away. Most underdeveloped countries find it hard to maintain an all-out war against malaria due to lack of resources.

Most African countries have fought malaria for a very long time. Reasons why they haven’t won the battle lie in the tools and strategies being used. The lack of financial resources is a major constraint in many of these countries. They are poor and face a number of other diseases like hunger, disasters and pandemics. It is hard to fight one battle to the end when you are fighting 4 other battles at the same time.

Nets only are not a solution, treated nets are highly in
demand for families in Malaria threat.(Picture by Damaso Reyes)

Plasmodium falciparum is the most common mosquito causing vast majority malaria incidents in Africa especially the south of Sahara. When bitten with this type of mosquito malaria can attack a body in a number of ways. A 10 year old primary school student in Jambiani, Zanzibar says he knows a person might have malaria if that person feels dizzy, has a headache or pain in joints, nausea, diarrhea, stomach pains etc. The children in Jambiani are part of the success story in one of the Zanzibar villages. They are taught the symptoms and know whenever you have any of the symptoms you should go to hospital. Jambiani village has been able to involve the community and make plans together on the fight against malaria which includes cleaning of the surroundings, educating the village on preventive measures that can be taken as well as necessity of treatment. Since October 2005 there has been only 1 reported case of malaria in the area comparing to more that 500 cases average that were reported previously every year.

Malaria can be prevented by destroying all the breeding sites of these mosquitoes. Dirty and still waters are perfect breeding centers for mosquitoes. Malaria can also be prevented by using nets on windows and doors so that mosquitoes can not come in contact with human beings. The use of mosquitos’ bed nets is one of the more effective means of preventing malaria infections. In Tanzania the government issues vouchers to help pregnant women obtain bed nets for very low rates. Women and young children under the age of five are the ones in the biggest danger.

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Writer Profile
Angela S. Damas

The influence of my own life and conditions I grew up in and grew to see others in has pushed me to not leave my community to somebody else. Instead I will take the first step of initiative. It takes one step to be able to have the second step, and third ...

Prevention is better than cure
atinukemi oshodi | Dec 6th, 2006
Statistics say that almost one million Africans die of malaria every year. I believe that the solution to this killer is simple but ambiguous because it will eventually involve the government of individual countries in Africa to stop the killer insects. Prevention of conducive breeding grounds for these mosquitoes in the first place is best solution to the death or sickness of malaria. I am involved in a private waste management program in my country, Nigeria...and the obvious problem of sewage evacuation is bad drainage system or should I say no drainage system. The blockage of these drainage systems contributes immensely to the breeding of mosquitoes. The stagnant water accumulated by rain or other domestic activities, at little corners of our homes is perfect for the malaria parasites. Regardless of our individual efforts to clean our surroundings as much as possible by destroying all possible breeding grounds for mosquitoes is not enough. These mosquitoes will still, eventually find their way back to our homes from blocked or stagnant street gutters, if our government does not something about the poor drainage system in each capital-state or country. Some of our effective cures or preventions to mosquitoes have also been very disadvantageous to us. A couple of years ago, I lost a classmate who was asthmatic , who died of insecticide spray even after adherence to its use rules, and mosquito nets have trapped people during sudden fire outbreaks. There have been mosquito body cream repellants that have caused all sorts of skin irritation and are cancerous. Prevention of mosquito breeding is the best solutions to drastically reducing the death rate of malaria.

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