Well, my dream didn't come true as a child but upon arrival here, I joked that my bed net was the canopy bed I'd always wanted. Finally, Queen Yamundow sleeps in luxury. Luxury, that is if luxury can be considered laying inside an insecticide treated bed net to the ambient sounds of donkeys braying and 5 am calls to prayer while watching rats tight-rope along my clothesline.
Joking aside, I love my bed net which protects me from many things beyond mosquitoes. The photos below are all creatures that are frequently inside my house or on my bed net.
|Flying Termites? Not entierly sure|
But most importantly, the reason I love my bed net is this.
The Gambia is home to the world's most lethal animal in the world. It's not the lion, the black mamba, the great white shark, or the hippo. It's the mosquito which carries several lethal diseases, the worst perhaps, being malaria which, according the World Health Organization, kills more than half a million people very year. Malaria is caused by a parasite transmitted by the female anopheles mosquito. There are a few different strands but the P. Falciparum, prevalent in The Gambia, is the most deadly.
Today, April 25th, is World Malaria Day. Generally, I'm not a big fan of disease awareness campaigns. People talk about it for a moment, and that's the end of it. People say, "Oh, how sad." They watch a video and shed a tear. But is there change?
Here's why I think World Malaria Day is different.
Malaria is preventable, and malaria is treatable, yet a child dies of malaria in Africa every minute.
Malaria continues to kill because of misconceptions and ignorance among those at risk and because of insufficient resources to prevent, detect, or treat the disease.
As I live in a village where malaria is a problem, I am taking the momentum gathered from World Malaria Day to educate on prevention and encourage people to seek treatment when suffering from malaria. I mentioned this in my Ebola post, and it's true for malaria too. Oftentimes, people suffering from an illness will go to a traditional healer because they distrust the clinic, or they simply won't go because they can't afford the treatment. A major difference between Ebola and malaria, however, is that malaria is treatable! Medication taken timely and properly works! Half a million people do not need to die each year.
Across the ocean, support organizations that work in the fight against malaria through bed net distributions and provision of diagnostic tests and treatment. Many such organizations exist. The one that I see on the ground here is Catholic Relief Services.
In a couple weeks I will have a program in my school to educate and motivate students on malaria prevention and treatment. I'll be sure to post about it.
Malaria's a buzz kill. Bednets save lives. With enough momentum, maybe someday soon there will be no World Malaria Day. Because that's the goal, that's the dream. A malaria free world. It can be done,