Malaria is a disease that many of us pay little attention to. This is partly due to the fact that cases of malaria are normally concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa. 627,000 people a year lose their lives to malaria, with the overwhelming majority of these deaths occurring within under-developed countries.
This is a particularly cruel fate, as for the most part, since malaria was eradicated in the 1960s in much of the western world, most people have an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality towards the disease. This is gradually changing and progression is being made, thanks to the efforts of initiatives such as World Malaria Day, which occurs on Friday 25th April. World Malaria day brings much needed attention to the cause of fighting malaria and stimulates the public consciousness into taking action.
Charities concerned with reducing cases of malaria are usually not after much, with mosquito nets and insect repellent being the items that most donations are spent on. These simple items can significantly reduce potential contact with mosquitoes that carry the disease, and thus are great ways to reduce the amount of contracted cases of malaria.
Why should we care?
The majority of people who die from the disease are children. This is particularly tragic, due to the fact many children in under-developed countries may already be malnourished, which makes their immune systems even more ineffective. Therefore, they at extremely high risk, with their being little their body can do to fight of the disease.
Furthermore, malaria should not be seen as a disease only poorer countries have. Whilst it is true that malaria cases are rare within developed countries, that does not mean western populations are immune to malaria. This is exemplified through the story of Harry Yirrel, an extremely fit, healthy and energetic 20 year old who, whilst volunteering as an aid worker in Ghana, gave away his anti-malaria medication to children he had befriended. He deemed they needed them more than he did, a decision which he tragically paid for with his life. Harry’s selfless act highlights just how deadly malaria is – but also how preventable it is. As Harry’s mother, and anti-malaria activist, Jo Yirrel has highlighted, Harry ‘needlessly lost his life to this preventable disease’. The grim reality of the situation is that if Harry had taken his medication, he may well still be alive, a fact which also highlights the effectiveness of the role of medication in preventing malaria. The materials and medications exist that can greatly reduce malaria related deaths. They have already been mass produced, yet they are not reaching those who need them most urgently.
This is a scenario which needs to change. Malaria is an indiscriminate killer, and is capable of ending the lives of anyone exposed to the disease, whether they are young, old, fit, unfit, rich or poor. A disease which can kill anyone and causes well over half a million deaths a year is clearly dangerous and needs to be stopped.
Room To Grow are looking at some form of donation exercise to help with this terrible disease – so watch this space – plans are afoot!
World Malaria Day website
Malaria No More charity website
Malaria key facts by the World Health Organization