By Silvia Ximenes, ChildFund Timor-Leste
Cristina Moniz was busy as usual one morning three years ago, getting her children up for school and preparing breakfast for them and her husband, Joaquim Lopez, a police officer in the Timor-Leste district of Covalima. She passed by her 7-year-old son Deonizio’s room, and to her surprise, he was still in bed asleep.
Approaching his bed, Cristina discovered that Deonizio had a fever.
“I felt not well at all, got headaches and vomited all the time,” Deonizio recalls today. “With all those conditions, it prevented me from going out; I couldn’t go to school or play around with my friends.”
It turned out that Deonizio had malaria, one of the deadliest diseases in the developing world, especially for children. He and Cristina first went to the village health post, Salele Community Health Center, which referred Deonizio to the hospital, where he had a blood test analyzed.
Cristina was shocked that her son had malaria, but the health center’s staff advised her to give Deonizio anti-malarial medication on time and keep the home clean and mosquito-free. This isn’t an easy task for Cristina, who now has five children and many duties. But insecticide-treated bed nets that arrived from ChildFund in 2011 have helped.
“Before getting the bed nets, there were many mosquitoes around the house,” Cristina says. “We are happy because there are no more mosquitoes, no more sickness. Now, my family and I can sleep safely away from mosquitoes. No more malaria in our family. Deonizio can go to school any time,” she notes.
“I feel sure that mosquito will no longer bite me when I sleep under the bed net,” adds Deonizio, who is 10 now. “I’ll be freely doing my daily activities as usual, going to school, playing with friends.”
Having recognized World Malaria Day recently, we’ve learned about how many children are at risk of contracting this preventable disease in developing countries like Timor-Leste. Malaria kills 200,000 children worldwide each year, and many more become sick. However, the gift of a medicated mosquito net can mean good health, education and fulfilled potential for children in need like Deonizio and his brothers.
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.
By Cynthia Price, Director of Communications
The other week I was thinking about how much we love to scare ourselves at Halloween. We dress in creepy costumes and go to horror movies. Most of the scariness, of course, is just pretend.
But at ChildFund, we’re all too aware of the threats that are much more real and much more frightening to children living in developing countries.
Few things are scarier than unsafe drinking water, hunger, diseases and even a lack of education. Here are the frightening statistics:
If you would like to make the world a little less scary this year, then consider a Halloween gift to ChildFund’s Children’s Greatest Needs fund.
A new report confirms that the current global investment in malaria control is saving lives and that further increases in funding will contribute significantly to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for health.
The study by Tulane University, Johns Hopkins University, WHO and PATH and published by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, provides the first assessment of lives saved as result of preventive measures.
Through the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying and preventive treatment of malaria during pregnancy, it’s estimated that the lives of nearly 750,000 children in 34 African countries have been saved during the last decade.
The report estimates that an additional 3 million lives could be saved by 2015 if the world continues to increase investment in tackling the disease. ChildFund is pursuing this goal by working with trained community health volunteers to provide malaria-prevention education to children and their families. In addition, ChildFund-supported community health huts provide medical care to children who contract the disease.
Malaria causes more than 850,000 deaths per year worldwide, primarily in Africa where the disease accounts for almost 20 percent of all child deaths. Malaria also threatens the health of pregnant women. In sub-Saharan Africa, as many as 10,000 pregnant women die each year of malaria-related causes, mainly anemia.
The report provides the first assessment of lives saved based on the level of coverage achieved with currently available malaria-prevention tools.
“The findings from this report clearly show the efficacy of our efforts to save lives, especially among children in Africa,” says Awa Coll Seck, executive director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership “This is a vital tool which can help strengthen country planning and guide us all as we focus on 2015.”
by Virginia Sowers
ChildFund Community Manager
As the social media minder at ChildFund, it’s continuously fascinating to engage in—and learn from—social actions that come to life via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and result in a degree of change in the world.
As we lead up to World Malaria Day, Sunday, April 25, we have an opportunity to watch social media do what it does best—motivate people to act.
Last month, Ray Chambers, the United Nations Special Envoy for Malaria, announced the formation of a Social Media Envoy group in support of malaria control. Now that’s a desirable title — social media envoy.
“In our efforts to reach the Secretary-General’s 2010 goal of universal bed net coverage, and to reach the longer term goal of near-zero deaths from malaria by 2015, it is critical that acceleration continue in the malaria control movement,” he said.
The social media envoys plan to take one social action, such as a tweet or a Facebook wall post, in support of malaria control at least once a month over the next year. Their first organized social action is set for Sunday.
The envoys include a mix of celebrities, news personalities and social media gurus such as Anderson Cooper, Arianna Huffington, Larry King, Alyssa Milano, Peter Cashmore (founder of Mashable), Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, Biz Stone (co-founder of Twitter), Randi Zuckerman (Facebook’s director of marketing) and Sarah Brown (of number 10 Downing Street).
I invite you to follow this unfolding story via social media—better still, engage in the conversation and take action to help children in Sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 90 percent of malaria deaths occur.
I’ll be blogging again later in the week about ChildFund’s work in malaria prevention and treatment. And I’ll be ChildFund’s own social media envoy on Twitter.