Malaria

“Malaria kills nearly one million people each year, and overwhelms public health systems. It is time to redouble our efforts to rid the world of a disease that does not have to take lives.”

- US President Barack Obama’s statement on World Malaria Day, April 24 2009

As any Canadian who’s spent as little as a weekend at the cottage or on a camping trip knows, mosquitoes can be a real pest. In our experience, though, they don’t qualify as much more than an itchy annoyance. Not so for the 50% of Earth’s population for whom the pesky little insects represent a lethal health risk. Their weapon? Malaria.

In 2006, malaria infected 247 million, mostly because of their lack of access to the knowledge and materials required to prevent it. More than one million people die from malaria every year, and the disease has a way of targeting those who are especially vulnerable: it’s said that a child dies of malaria every thirty seconds.

In addition to fracturing individual families and communities, the economic impact of malaria is such that it prevents entire nations from realizing their development potential. Governments of the worst-hit countries spend as much as 40% of their public health budgets on malaria treatment, while bedridden workers are forced to sit by and observe their nation’s crumbling economic prospects.

Check out the World Health Organization’s Malaria info page for more facts and figures on this devastating disease.

Causes

Malaria is a vector-born disease, that means, it is transmitted to humans via an agent. For malaria, that agent is a mosquito.

The parasite, called Plasmodium, is transferred from the mosquito to the human via a bite. Once bit by an infected mosquito, the parasite multiplies in the human’s liver before infecting the red blood cells.

The World Health Organization states that “Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, and vomiting, and usually appear between 10 and 15 days after the mosquito bite. If not treated, malaria can quickly become life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs.” While medications exist to both prevent and treat the disease, there are two problems: the first is cost. Malaria thrives in the global south where many individuals live well below the poverty line. Secondly, many of the parasites have developed a resistance to a number of anti-malarial medications.

So, now we know the problem, but what about a solution?

Stats

You know about the problem…

1 BITE
all it takes to become infected
45 SECONDS
and another child dies
3.3 BILLION
people at risk
250 MILLION
malaria cases per year
1 MILLION
lives lost to malaria each year
5 YEARS
and under are the children at greatest risk

…now it’s your turn to be part of the solution.

Prevention

As mosquitoes hunt at night, an inexpensive and highly effective means of preventing the transmission of the disease is via insecticide-treated bed nets. According to our partner, Spread the Net (STN), these bed nets do not only provide a physical barrier from mosquitoes, thereby reducing the chances of getting bit, the insecticide treatment also kills off mosquitoes that come into contact with them. STN’s website reports that “the use of these nets has been shown to reduce mortality in children under the age of five by up to 25 per cent. One bed net can protect an African child for up to five years. Thousands of lives could be saved every year if all children under the age of five in Africa slept under a bed net.”