Malaria: Is Africa free from this deadly sickness?


Malaria has been a long time tropical disease that has ravaged the African continent before the white explorers landed on the shores of Africa. It took many of them to their untimely grave; hence the continent was referred to as ‘The white man’s grave’.

Despite the amazing discovery of scientific methods, health care improvement, vaccines and modern technology, malaria every year kills hundreds of children and adults in Africa.

The sickness is caused by a single-cell parasite called a Plasmodium. Anopheles mosquitoes, usually females pick up the parasite from infected people when they bite. After bitten, the blood they obtained nurtures their eggs. Inside the mosquito the parasites develop and reproduce. When the mosquito bites again, the parasites mix with its saliva and pass into the blood of the person being bitten.

Africa’s health care system is very fragile. Poverty has caused wide spread of the disease at a faster rate like the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Other factors which have escalated malaria in Africa, is the poor drainage system and choked gutters. Gutters with debris, irrigated pastures, stagnant pools, sewage effluent ponds and dark marshy places, become the breeding places of mosquitoes where they lay their eggs.

A malaria victim may show no symptoms for weeks after bitten by mosquitoes, until the parasites return to the bloodstream and invade the red blood cells. Rapid multiplication of the parasites ruptures the red cells, releasing more parasites into the bloodstream and causing the characteristic symptoms. If the person does not receive prompt and effective drug therapy, damage may occur to the brain and other organs, sometimes leading to death.

In many parts of Africa, where a sick person goes to the hospital if only he can afford, a malaria victim has no chance to recover than to succumb to the disease. The victim loses appetite, preventing the desire to eat. Weak and confined permanently to bed, malaria victim sleeps for hours. At times the victim sweats profusely and efforts to sleep become a nightmare. Malaria statistics indicate that over half a million (655, 000) people die from malaria each year, mostly children younger than five years old.

There are an estimated 216 million cases of malaria each year. Although the vast majority of malaria cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa, the disease is a public-health problem in more than 109 countries in the world, 45 of which are in Africa. Approximately 3.3 billion people live in areas where malaria is a constant threat. 90% of all malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

Malaria eradication has been on the discussion table for years but still remains an illusion, since poverty is the source of all diseases in Africa. However, measures are applied to control the disease. Bed nets, domestic spraying insecticides, spraying infected places with DDT and anti—malaria vaccine help to protect people and the environment from malaria.

A child vaccinating against malaria (allafrica.com) Photo credit: John-Michael Maas/GlaxoSmithKline.


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