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 Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
It’s World Malaria Day. But instead of launching into a litany of statistics, I’ll just share one hard fact: a child is dying this very minute—every minute—from this disease. And that just shouldn’t be.
Malaria is preventable. Malaria is treatable.
“In the past 10 years, increased investment in malaria prevention and control has saved more than a million lives,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization. “This is a tremendous achievement. But we are still far from achieving universal access to life-saving malaria interventions.”
So you may be asking, “What can I do as just one person?”
Buy an insecticide-treated mosquito net from ChildFund’s Gifts of Love & Hope for a child who doesn’t have one. And then ask your friends on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube to buy one, too. You may inspire a movement. At the very least, you’ll raise awareness.
A mosquito net costs $11. And you could be helping a child like 5-year-old Francis from Uganda.
Or, taking a worry off the shoulders of a mother like Margaret, who lives in Zambia.
Just for today, World Malaria Day, I invite you to take a swing at the statistics. Use your social media clout to knock back malaria one child at a time.
Every 30 seconds, a child dies from malaria. In The Gambia, as well as in many other countries, ChildFund is educating children about this deadly disease, and how it can be prevented. Meet Lamine and Binta.
If malaria is preventable, why does this disease remain a major killer of children under age five?
To answer that troublesome question, ChildFund has formed collaborative partnerships within the international community. In Senegal, we lead a consortium of organizations (Africare, Catholic Relief Services, Counterpart International, Plan and World Vision) in the implementation of a malaria-focused USAID-funded Community Health Project.
This program uses community-based maternal and child health services to prevent and treat malaria cases. Although this effort involves significant distribution of medicine, it also offers disease-prevention education through ChildFund’s “Health Huts” program.
Established networks of community volunteers support more than 1,300 health huts. As a result, malaria-prevention programs have now reached more than 4 million people, including nearly 800,000 children under age five.
To reach an even larger audience, ChildFund Senegal is partnering with Senegalese Grammy-winning singer Youssou N’Dour, who has established the Youssou N’Dour Foundation aimed at combating malaria. N’Dour, a leading advocate for the U.S.-based nonprofit Malaria No More, has written a song titled, “Xeex Sibbiru,” which means “fight malaria.” The popular song has become the centerpiece of a “360-degree” education and advocacy campaign that is now sweeping Senegal.
ChildFund Senegal staff and its partners are incorporating the song into malaria education sessions to build awareness of disease prevention. As a result, children are organizing distribution of mosquito nets and initiating community cleanup campaigns to eliminate standing water where mosquitoes breed.
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.