What is Malaria and how we can stop it
Quite often we hear about Malaria and how dangerous it is, that there is no vaccine to fight against it, that many people die from it and so on.
But, what is Malaria, and how we can stop.
Is it something we can’t fight against, can’t we stop it, how we can stop the spread of it? Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease and it is caused by a parasite. Some main symptoms are fever, chills, and flu-like illness.
If it is not treated the symptoms may develop severe complications as a result leading to death.
But an important fact is that Malaria is preventable and curable.
According to statistics by the World Health Organitation (WHO) in 2016 it was estimated 216 million cases of malaria occurred and around 445,000 people died. Where is the key point? The fact is that children in the African Region make up most of the deaths. As WHO statistics show, in 2016 the African Region was home to 90% of malaria cases worldwide and 91% of malaria deaths. People who live in poverty and most common in the rural areas are those who lack access to health care, whose weak immune system make them the most vulnerable.
In this group of most vulnerable are children under 5 – around 70%) of all malaria deaths occur in this age group. We could see that each year we can reduce the amount of deaths but still Malaria remains the main killer of children under five years old.
One of the best examples of success in my opinion is Sri Lanka. WHO recognized this country as a malaria-free nation. It was one of the countries most affected by Malaria in the middle of the last century but Sri Lanka started an anti-malaria campaign that was successful.
But how did that happen?
The campaign targeted the mosquito-borne parasite (the one that cause Malaria) and not just the mosquito itself, it included health education and effective surveillance and it was done together with local and international partners.
This is an example of how good cooperation between organitations and communities, focusing on health education and not only treatment could make a huge impact and a change.
As a person who is engaged a lot with public health I always see the struggle of poverty in a very close relationship with the health. Many development instructors are volunteering, leading projects in the Africa region where Malaria is most prevalent along with many other health issues in connection with conditions of poverty such as malnutrition or starvation, lack of clean water. Having knowledge, communication and cooperation skills can make an impact. For example each year in rural areas in Malawi people receive mosquito nets, but they use them for protecting chickens or tomatoes or some other purpose, but not for protecting themselves.
Small collaboration through health education with communities can save many lives.
In many places we find no vaccine against Malaria, but vaccines in the clinical stages exist and are already being used in pilot projects in three countries in Africa – Ghana, Malawi and Kenya with the most vulnerable group (babies and children under 5 years of age).
That could make a huge difference in the near future.