It was world malaria day, last week. WHO essentially set out that day for everyone to sit up and pay attention to the ills of malaria. A lot of corporate bodies marked the event with information on malaria in print and electronic media; with events organized to discuss the way forward and ponder on the theme: invest in the future; defeat malaria. Foreign scientists used the opportunity to let us know the journey so far in the creation of a fool proof malaria vaccine. NGOs shared out mosquito nets to anyone who showed up for their events. Awesome, you would think. And it is!
The fight against malaria though should go beyond the rhetorics and big gestures whenever there’s an event decreed by a world body. It is a clear and present danger and if we are to believe the statistics of the global fund on malaria, every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria. Do the math people…this means that in 24 hours, give or take, 2880 children are lost to this illness! It sounds very far fetched and indeed, I have had people ask me things like’ you mean that person died from ‘ordinary’ malaria?!’
I know nothing ordinary about malaria…not the symptoms (fever with rigours, general body aches and weakness, sour taste in the mouth, vomitting etc) and certainly not the complications (kidney shut down, cerebral malaria which can lead to permanent brain damage, anaemia etc). All of it is extraordinary, if you ask me. Perhaps, what we have made ordinary is how we view it…with very jaded eyes like it’s a part of our everyday life.
Now, anyone who argues with whether malaria is a clear and present endemic danger in these climes is wasting time. Malaria is endemic in this environment…we know it, we believe it, we live with it! Having said that, because it is a well documented disease, it should be limited in how much damage it can do to us!
So what can we do to curb the menace of malaria?
First the battle starts from the environment. Those anopheles mosquitoes need a place to lay eggs so they can muster the right army to wreck havoc. So deprive them of a breeding camp. Who would know the conditions necessary for a terrorist camp to be set up and make their homes or environment, the right one for that? Nobody…in their right minds at least 😀
So, if you love flowers…indulge. But you know the big flower pots with live plants that you’ve got to water everyday? Go easy on the watering. I had a daily once who tried to do a week’s work in one day and so would fill the flower pot almost up to the brim…just so she didn’t have to do it the next day! Well, before too long, my house became a cesspot of mosquitoes of all shades, shapes and sizes. They could not believe their luck that such a conducive home could be prepared for them in such a lovely (even if I say so myself :)) environment! So, as practicable as possible, leave the flower pots that have to be watered outside and try not to do a week’s worth of watering in a day 😀
If you have to store water inside your house, in buckets and basins, be sure to get covers for them. They are fantastic breeding places for the mosquitoes.
If you’ve got a bathroom with a blocked drain, please sort it out. The water that accumulates there is a good home for these undesirables. As you approach the water, you would see them rise as a swarm…Disgusting!!!
Outside, clear out gutters, mow the lawn or failing that just cut the grasses. Get a fumigator to do the needful every once in a while, within and outside the house. Put nets on the windows and ensure that this is re-enforced with insecticide sprays as needed. Get the children especially those under 5 and pregnant women to sleep under mosquito nets. These nets should be re-treated with insecticides every 6 months or 5 years depending on the type. If you’ve got girly girls, you can actually design a four poster bed and use the net as a canopy! That will make it seem more fun and get them to readily want to use it. For the boys….weeellll, let’s hear your bright ideas on that one:D
If you have to go out in the evenings, depending on whether you will be out in mosquito infested areas, wear protective clothing that cover arms and legs, preferably in light colours. Mosquitoes love dark colours and the dark….no wonder their deeds are evil :D. Insect repellent creams used on exposed areas are also not a bad idea.
Beyond the preventive measures, if one does get malaria, please be sure to get it treated effectively. Go to the hospital; trust me, ‘Dr’ Emeka over at the chemist shop (not pharmacy) may be very free with his medical advice, but he has absolutely no medical knowledge! He’s a trader who delved into the drug trade and became know as a doctor to boot! You can’t give what you don’t have. And so when one asks him to ‘mix’ some drugs, one runs the risk of becoming a statistic!
When the anti-malarials are prescribed, please take them in the exact dosage and for the exact duration they were meant for. Finish the dose; don’t stop because you feel well. Not taking them appropriately leads to the emergence of resistant strains of the parasite, such that with time, the drugs we have now may not be able to deal with the malaria scourge. Remember what happened with chloroquine? (Not that we miss it much…the itches?!!! And then the scratching?!!! Ohhh! the scratching…… (Feel me?)
If you do not live in Nigeria or any other malaria-endemic area, please be sure to start on malaria prophylaxis before making the trip. For some, the drug is started 1 or 2 days before the trip to an endemic area, taken everyday during the trip and then continued for about 7 days after return. Please speak with your doctor about the best drug for you.
Most importantly guys, let’s stop treating this disease with kid gloves and fight it as hard as we can with…yes, sledge hammers!
Here’s to a healthier you!