By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist
Why? Because every minute, malaria takes the life of an African child. That’s an important fact to remember as we mark World Malaria Day.
How Malaria Spreads
A parasitic illness spread by female Anopheles mosquitos, malaria is the leading cause of death in children under the age of 5 in Africa. Every year, malaria kills 10,000 women and 200,000 infants worldwide. It’s especially dangerous during a woman’s first and second pregnancies. Infants become vulnerable again at 3 months, when the natural immunity they shared with their mother begins to wane.
Mosquitos bite mainly between dusk and dawn, and they carry four different parasites. The most lethal — and most common — malarial parasite is Plasmodium falciparum. Anopheles mosquitos in Africa have long lifespans and prefer to bite humans rather than animals. As a result, 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur in Africa, although India also has a significant problem. The Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone, all countries served by ChildFund, have the highest occurrence rates in the world.
Rainfall patterns, temperature and humidity affect mosquitos, so malaria infections peak during and immediately after rainy seasons. Epidemics occur when climate conditions change or when seasonal workers, immigrants or refugees lacking immunity move into malarial areas.
Approximately half of the world’s population is at risk of catching malaria. In endemic areas, adults develop partial immunity through many years of exposure and illness, so most deaths occur in young children. In regions with lower infection rates, a sudden epidemic can decimate the population.
Links to HIV and Poverty
Mozambique and Zambia have high rates of cerebral malaria — which virtually guarantees death — as well as co-infection with HIV. More than 90 percent of their populations are at ongoing risk for malaria, and more than 10 percent have AIDS.
Existing HIV infection increases the risk of malaria and also the severity and complexity of the illness; HIV infection also interferes with the medications used to treat malaria, making death more likely. Malaria also increases the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Malaria is closely linked to poverty: The lower a country’s gross national income, the higher its malaria mortality rate. For children under 5, parasite prevalence is worst in poverty-stricken, rural communities, where lack of access to health facilities, effective diagnostics and treatment options is commonplace. Poor-quality housing offers little protection against mosquitoes, and the cost of insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor spraying with insecticides is challenging for those living on less than $1.25 a day.
To avoid malaria, families need to sleep under insecticide-treated nets nightly, and houses must be sprayed every three to six months. ChildFund is working to combat the spread of malaria in Guinea, India, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Uganda and Zambia, and you can help by purchasing bed nets for children and families.
On World Malaria Day, let’s strike back against this threat to children.
View a video to hear a mother in Guinea describe how her children’s health has improved with treated bed nets.
Reporting by Arthur Tokpah Mamy, ChildFund Guinea
Fatoumata is 13 years old and lives in Guinea. A student in Sougueta Primary School, which is supported by ChildFund, Fatoumata holds the position of minister of discrimination in her student government.
We asked her why she accepted this post.
“In my village, families do not easily accept each other. Those from the Mandingo ethnic group do not collaborate with ones from the Foula ethnic group,” she says. “Unfortunately, our parents’ bad behavior has extended even to the schools and is affecting relationships between students on campus.”
She notes that students often fight each other and that each group of students discriminates against the other.
“I want to talk about peace with my fellow students and, if possible, with our parents,” Fatoumata says.
Asked what advice she would give, Fatoumata doesn’t hesitate: “To my friends, I would say, ‘Make peace with each other because if we follow our parents’ bad ways, we will not grow to become good people.’
To the parents, I would say, ‘Help us grow and become good people in the future.’ ”
By Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
For the past few years, the ChildFund Alliance (a 12-member organization that includes ChildFund International) has been asking children to tell us what they would do if they were president or the leader of their country. As you can imagine, 11- to 12-year-olds have some definite ideas.
As U.S. voters go to the polls today to elect the next president of the United States, we wanted to share with you some very good ideas for changing the world offered up by children who have a lot of important things to say when asked.
If I Were President…
To help these children and others like them achieve their dreams, and maybe one day grow up to be president, consider sponsoring a child.
To celebrate the New Year, we’re taking you on a tour of all 31 countries where ChildFund works. Over the course of January’s 31 days, we’ll make a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. So whether you’re helping ChildFund build playgrounds in Afghanistan, provide drought aid in Kenya and Ethiopia or sponsoring a child in the United States, we hope you’ll make new discoveries about our work around the globe.
Located in western Africa on the North Atlantic Ocean between Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone, Guinea is smaller than the state of Oregon. The children who live here suffer from a lack of safe water and preventable diseases as well as exploitation.
Many children in Guinea are not in school, and for younger children, there is often no foundation for later learning. ChildFund is implementing Early Childhood Development (ECD) programs, including building and equipping facilities.
Working with the Ministry of Health, we’re delivering health education programs, including HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, to local health workers. We’ve also trained more than 125 community volunteers to educate the community about disease prevention and proper hygiene. To provide access to safe water and sanitation facilities, we have provided 29 water systems in Guinea.
In addition, ChildFund Guinea has teamed with Lelano Andre Flamy, a young Guinean artist, to record a song about the importance of child protection. He sings about the fight against child exploitation, HIV/AIDS and other concerns. The video was prepared as part of ChildFund Guinea’s health education activities supported by the Irish Aide Project.
The video is played over the national television station at least once every week to increase the population’s awareness of issues that impact children in Guinea. Here’s a clip.
Learn more about ChildFund’s work in Guinea.
In recent weeks, government protests in Guinea, a nation in western Africa, have resulted in more than 150 deaths, and more than 1,200 people injured. Media outlets are reporting serious violations of human rights, including rapes.
In this period of renewed violence, children and families are especially in need of help.
“We are deeply concerned with the violence and alarmed by the escalating vulnerability of children in Guinea,” says ChildFund International Africa Regional Vice President Isam Ghanim. “Our ChildFund staff in Guinea are doing their best in one of the toughest operating environments in Africa to enable families and communities to protect children and ensure that they continue to have access to basic services in education and health. We call on our supporters and donors to sustain their support to children during such difficult times.”
ChildFund Guinea staff have succeeded so far in ensuring continuation of services to children, youth and women in its programs. None of ChildFund Guinea staff has been harmed in the violence. ChildFund Guinea is implementing measures to ensure staff safety and continuation of services to children.
ChildFund has been operating in Guinea since 2005. ChildFund Guinea programs focus on increasing access to quality basic education, strengthening community health, improving local livelihoods and providing youth and women with information to improve their reproductive health.
For more information on Guinea, click here.
More on Guinea
Population: 10 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 102,000 children and families
Did You Know?: Guinea is richly endowed with metals. It is known for its resources of diamonds, gold and several other types of metal.