Every 60 seconds, malaria claims another victim.
A single mosquito bite can be a death sentence for people who lack access to medical treatment. What makes malaria deaths particularly tragic is that they are fully preventable -- and some of malaria’s most common victims are children under 5.
[caption id="attachment_12514" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Nicole Suka gives her 3-year-old son, Yangana, a sip of water as he receives a blood transfusion for his severe case of malaria."][/caption]
People like me, who thought the world was winning the war against malaria, might have gotten a rude awakening earlier this month following the release of a report by researchers at the University of Washington.
Here in the United States, malaria is often merely thought of as an exotic, foreign disease that was eradicated from our nation in 1951.
But when asked to describe malaria in one word, a nurse at Karawa General Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had this to say:
The hospital administrator said that 80 percent of the local population carries the disease. My assignment last week was to document the needs of children in the region, because World Vision is considering working in the Karawa area.
Malaria dominated almost every situation I covered. Here is a glimpse of what it looks and feels like.
In the afternoon of our first day with World Vision in Sinazongwe, Zambia, Emily Syabubila, a widow and mother of three, gives us a tour of her compound. It consists of a one-room house with two beds for her and her daughters; another one-room home for her son; three raised chicken coops; an outdoor cook hut; and a raised drying rack for her corn.
In my last post, I shared how microloans (similar to those described in my book "One Hen") had enabled her to restore her family to economic and food security after malaria claimed the life of her husband. She now invites us to share in rituals of harvest and shuck dried maize with her. Hard. Then she throws the kernals in the air to winnow the chaff, catching the good grain expertly in a metal bowl. We don’t even dare. But we do take turns pounding the grain in her mortar, and manage to spill enough to attract her hens for the good eats. Where Emily sings as she pounds, we grunt!
I had the privilege last month of traveling with World Vision to the district of Sinazongwe, Zambia, where rolling hills covered in acacia, cacti, and fruit trees look remarkably like parts of Southern California. But tucked among them are mud brick huts with thatched roofs, small vegetable gardens by muddy pools, and high racks where cobs of maize dry beyond the reach of animals. We pass a small roadside market, where women sell tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and stalks of sugar cane beside a banana grove.
The statistics of this region belie the bucolic scene. Malaria plagues a quarter of children under 5, often fatally, and affects 9 percent of the overall population, according to Rose Zambezi, World Vision's technical adviser for health. HIV and AIDS persist, too, affecting 14 percent of Zambians. As a children’s book author, I’m especially interested in these statistics as I’m working on a story about an African family that strives to create a “healthy village.”
In honor of World Malaria Day, observed every year on April 25 as a day of awareness and recognition for global efforts to end malaria, we challenge you to educate yourself on the facts, raise awareness, and take action against this deadly but preventable disease.
Malaria is a disease of massive proportions that disproportionately impacts children. Each year, approximately 780,000 people die from malaria, 85 percent of whom are children under 5. World Vision works in 62 countries affected by malaria, 23 of which are in Africa.
Impact on children and families
Global malaria prevention
Editor's note: In lieu of World Malaria Day (Monday, April 25th), the following post was written for us by our friends at RELEVANT Magazine.
Recently, the RELEVANT staff became aware of a problem.
If you watch the news (who does that anymore?), or follow the news feed on Facebook or check in online with the media outlet of your choice, you know the world is in trouble. Our world’s issues have created issues that have created more issues that could lead one to believe the world, in its current state, is not right. How does one respond when the world seems to be on fire?
Apathy is our worldview
Some have chosen to bury their heads in the sand and pretend this “world on fire” doesn’t affect their everyday life. They’ve embraced apathy as a worldview—it informs the way they spend their time, money and conversation. Others have chosen to respond by passionately standing up for a cause they feel called to. But how do you go about choosing what evil to war against when there is so much evil in the world?
The problem that caught our attention was the very problem we thought had gone away. Several decades ago our U.S. government decided to wage a war against the threat of malaria. Along with relocating people away from river beds and dangerous bodies of water that hosted deadly mosquitoes, we launched an all-out chemical assault on malaria with DDT. We attacked the disease at its origin. Since the threat has now been all but eliminated in the U.S., most of us have seen malaria as that virus you might get on a mission trip that, at its worst, is similar to a common cold and a few trips to the bathroom.
Truth be told, malaria isn’t on our radar anymore because it’s no longer a deadly threat to our culture. We’ve moved on to “bigger” problems—economic development, child mortality, education, health care, ending poverty, fighting global AIDS, etc. But the fact is, if you care about any of these issues, you have to solve the problem of malaria first
The numbers don’t lie
Nearly 1 million people die every year due to diseases that were caused by malaria—85 percent of them are children under the age of 5. If you care about solving other issues in the world, you have to pay attention to the fact that 30 percent of all school absenteeism on the entire continent of Africa is the result of malaria. It slows the economic and educational development of countries around the world by perpetuating the cycle of poverty and becomes exponentially more deadly when accompanied by AIDS and malnutrition.
How have we lived on this planet without knowing? Ignorance is killing more people right now than all the great wars described in our history books.
Today is World Health Day. World Vision joins the World Health Organization to draw attention to issues of global health, particularly the health of children. Part of this year's theme tagline is "no action today, no cure tomorrow." Consider this challenge as you read these facts.
22,191 per day,
924 per hour,
15 per minute,
1 child dies every 4 seconds.
(Source: UNICEF, Levels & Trends in Child Mortality, September 2010)