World Malaria Day

Today is World Malaria Day. I think it has been a good idea to draw people’s attention to this awful disease. Malaria is one of the deadliest diseases in the world. It kills each year between one and three million people, the most vulnerable groups being small children and older people. More than 500 million people suffer from the disease!
Compare this with HIV/AIDS: about 40 million people are affected by the hiv-virus (more than half of them in Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular Southern Africa). About three million people die from it each year, of whom two million in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In Liberia, malaria is the number one killer. It accounts for 18% of all deaths. This week it was disclosed that Liberia has the highest rate of malaria in West Africa. Liberians no longer die from bullets. Nowadays the mosquitoes that transmit the disease are the greatest enemy.

The coastal zone of Liberia is one of the most humid regions in the world, as a result of the yearly rainfall which varies between five and six metres. Malaria is common and widespread. However, preventive measures are possible, in particular the use of nets during the night, and those who can afford it can take preventive medicine to reduce the risk of infection. Once infected, the sick person may take antimalarial drugs, such as quinine and artemisinine derivates, to treat the infection, but the poor of course cannot afford it whereas in the greater part of Liberia there are no pharmacies. And it should not be forgotten that Liberia has only 30 medical doctors for its population of about 3 million people, resulting in one of the lowest ratio in the world.

Malaria is among the most feared diseases I know. When in Liberia I got infected, despite the use of prophylactic drugs and being well-fed. Fortunately, I could afford to buy quinine to treat the infection. In Liberia, malaria is rampant during and shortly after the rainy season. I just read that the rainy season has started in Liberia. It will last until October, at least. I am afraid that this year again many Liberians will not survive the rainy season. Is it inevitable?

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