By: KhanyaQhawe Cindi
We all know the extent of the HIV on our continent. Southern Africa alone accounts for the world’s largest population of infected individuals, but I’d like to divert away from HIV and talk about a disease less mentioned.
The top 5 killers in sub Saharan Africa of children younger than 15 are:
- Lower respiratory infections
Malaria comes in at 3rd place and 1 child dies every minute because of this disease. According to a report by The World Health Organization (WHO) in the year 2010 they were 219 million reported cases of malaria infection and an estimated 666 000 deaths as a result of infection where Africa accounted for 91% of these deaths. Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo account for more than 40% of the deaths and infections on the African continent.
The cause of this infectious disease is the Plasmodium parasite. This parasite is spread by a vector known as the female Anopholese mosquito and favours climatic conditions that are humid, high in rain fall and environments with nearby water sources. Individuals seen to be at greatest risk for infection are those with a compromised immune system such groups are children and pregnant woman.
Being infected presents itself with fever like symptoms and if such symptoms aren’t followed up progression to severe symptoms like metabolic acidosis, respiratory depression and cerebral malaria, where the parasite infects the brain can occur and ultimately lead to death. Although infection by this parasite can be prevented by means of using insecticide treated bed nets, DDT spraying, indoor residual spraying (IRS), wearing longer sleeved clothing in the evenings and using mosquito repellent, the disease is showing more and more resistance to the drugs used to treat it. Despite drug development by pharmaceutical companies being pushed the drugs already assigned to treat the infection aren’t very accessible to remote communities in our continent and because malaria isn’t seen to be as problematic as HIV, money to fund malaria projects is not always the priority on some of our African countries budget lists.
The combined efforts of preventative measures and NGO funded educational awareness programmes have played a major role in the success of increasing infection control in high risk countries and with Algeria being the only African country to have successfully eradicated this disease we as Africans no longer have to see this endemic as the beginning of our end but as the beginning of Malaria’s end.