Yesterday I found out that I have malaria. For those of you who haven’t had malaria before I can promise it is no fun. The symptoms come in waves but yesterday I took myself off for a blood test because I had a driving headache, aching bones and muscles, felt like I needed to vomit and was having hot and cold flushes all morning.
As I say, it is no fun.
Here in Uganda though malaria is an alarmingly common occurrence. 90% of the country is considered by the WHO to have ‘high transmission’ rates. This is partly explained because it is a tropical country with lots of Anopheles mosquitoes (who pass on the parasite when they bite you).
But there are also sociological factors. Anopheles mosquitoes predominantly bite humans at night. If you sleep under a mosquito net this massively reduces your chances of getting malaria. There is a big NGO drive in Uganda to distribute nets (and research suggests that most people who get them use them) but millions in Uganda still sleep without the nets. Only a few stupid westerns actually chose to sleep, without a net, under the stars on top of a rock after a day’s rock climbing!
But this issue is not limited to Uganda, over half the world’s population live in areas at risk of malaria.
In 2012 the WHO recorded 207 million cases of malaria worldwide. Out of these 207 million, 627,000 died. Although the disease affects large parts of the world, the deaths caused by malaria are an overwhelmingly African issue. 90% of malaria deaths in 2012 occurred in Africa. African children are especially at risk – 460,000 African children died before their fifth birthdays.
But this is the real travesty of the situation – malaria, with early diagnosis, is completely treatable. With early diagnosis and a simple course of medication malaria is treatable and leaves the patient (normally) with no long-term effects.
Because I went to the hospital quickly and started my medication within a few days of showing symptoms, in all likelihood I should be back to my old self in the next 2 to 3 days. So for the friends and family reading this, I’m fine, you’ve got nothing to worry about!
And there is some more good news, since 2000, the WHO has recorded a drop in malaria fatalities in Africa by 49% – this is largely through greater prevention methods (such as net distribution).
Malaria is one of the big killers. In the 21st century it doesn’t have to be like that.
For more information:
- Have a look at the NetsforLifeAfrica website and consider donating to their important work.
- Read this nice little fact-sheet on what the WHO has to say about malaria.