Today is World Malaria Day. Malaria isn’t something we think about much in the U.S., but its devastating effects are still felt around the world.
Malaria afflicts 350 to 500 million people a year; 40 percent of the world’s population.
Malaria is preventable and curable. If not treated, though, it can be deadly. It kills more than a million people a year; mostly young children and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is the hardest hit area, but malaria also afflicts Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and even parts of Europe.
CFCA projects in malaria-affected areas are working to help families deal with this threat. The easiest way to prevent malaria is by sleeping under treated bed nets, because the mosquitoes that carry malaria most often bite at night. Unfortunately, although bed nets are not expensive by U.S. standards, most families in malaria-affected areas can’t afford them.
Project Coordinator Mary Dawn Reavey, based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, wrote to us this week about malaria prevention in her community:
Medicated bed nets have been a sponsorship benefit at the CFCA Dar es Salaam project that families can choose from the personalized portion of their sponsorship plan since January 2005. Starting in 2008, every sponsored child receives a medicated bed net as part of his/her health benefit. Also part of the health benefit is malaria testing and treatment. Beginning in February of this year (which is the start of the long rainy season in Dar es Salaam), the project began providing education to sponsored families on the treatment of malaria to coincide with the distribution of mosquito nets to all currently sponsored children. We also have some children with chronic illnesses (e.g. sickle cell anemia, AIDS and severe cerebral palsy) on antimalarial prophylaxis.
Drug-resistant malaria is a huge problem because to most Tanzanian families every illness is “malaria” (any cold, flu, virus, ear infection, abdominal pain, headache, etc. is thought to be “malaria”). The cost of testing is much higher than the medication (40 to 80 cents to test versus 4 cents per tablet—dosage is based on weight so most kids only need 9 to 10 tablets). Family members are able to go into any pharmacy and buy malaria treatment medication without a prescription, so they typically don’t test and instead treat for malaria with any symptom.
CFCA’s BON subproject is located in western Kenya, near Lake Victoria, one of Kenya’s malaria corridors. They wrote to tell us about how they’re fighting this threat, too:
Malaria is prevalent during the rainy season because the mosquitoes tend to multiply during these cold periods. It is transmitted by the female anopheles mosquito, and can be prevented by spraying insecticides, sleeping under treated mosquito nets and draining away stagnant water. It can also be prevented by keeping our home environments clean by clearing all the bushes around our houses and destroying or burning waste containers around our homes since these are breeding places for mosquitoes.
In the fight against malaria, Nairobi-BON subproject always does the following for our beneficiaries:
1. Provide treated mosquito nets at least once a year and ensure that sponsored children and aging sleep under their nets.
2. Create awareness of the dangers of malaria and employ preventive measures like the ones mentioned above.
3. Emphasize the importance of proper hygiene and sanitation.
It is good that these efforts have helped prevent malaria in our beneficiaries since we do not experience many cases of malaria.
On behalf of the CFCA beneficiaries, BON subproject is grateful to CFCA for joining in the fight against this killer disease.
Sponsorship in malaria-affected areas not only allows children to receive bed nets for prevention and quality medical care for treatment if they contract malaria, it also allows families to eat a more nutritious diet. This strengthens their immune system and improves their reaction to medicines. Sponsored children are also able to go to school and learn about the causes and effects of malaria.
This is a great example of how holistic child development, through sponsorship, improves a child’s life in so many ways. Every aspect of their life and sponsorship—food, shelter, education, medical treatment—works together to give them hope and an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty.