I had such a beautiful childhood… They say i was ‘born with a silver spoon’
though i think they meant STAINLESS STEEL*laughs. I lived in some of the best parts of Lagos, got everything i wanted, went to the best of schools, went on vacations every summer. From a young age, i knew what good life was all about.
Being a volunteer for the MALARIA TO ZERO initiative afforded me the opportunity of going into the hinterlands and for the first time i realized that some many children were not as lucky as i was. These poverty ravaged and chronically dirty communities bordered by canals with heaps of filth unending were homes to these children who indeed had ‘found home’ as they went about their normal businesses , playing, running around mostly naked as they enjoyed the ambience that they had become accustomed to. Of course, you know what accompanies these communities. MOSQUITOES! with dirty environment and filled up canals, we have a ready and steady reservoir from which these insects wreck havoc on the community. No wonder these residents called their community ‘THE MOSQUITO ISLAND’.
According to the World Health Organization, children under 5 years of age (6 months-5 years) are one of most vulnerable groups affected by malaria. There were an estimated 438,000 malaria deaths around the world in 2015, of which approximately 69% were in children under 5 years of age. In parts of the world where malaria is endemic i.e sub Saharan Africa especially, Malaria causes as many as 10% of all deaths in children. It is safe to say at this point that malaria is one of the major killer diseases of childhood, hence the need tackle this ancient scourge of humanity.
Malaria is a disease caused by plasmodium species ( particularly Plasmodium falciparum in this parts of the world) and transmitted by the female anopheles mosquito infected from biting someone who already has the disease. Malaria is then transmitted to other people when infected mosquitoes bite them.It is important to know that malaria is rarely passed from person to person (from mother to child in “congenital malaria,” or through blood transfusion, organ donation, or shared needles).
As said earlier, children between the ages of 6 months – 5 years are more prone to coming down with malaria. You might be wondering, ‘why not children younger?’. This is why. A baby is unlikely to get malaria in the first two months of his/her life. This is because of the immunity gotten during pregnancy. As the child grows older, immunity is lost, and by 6 months, risk of catching malaria increases. For children under five years, the following symptoms are common; fever, shivering, cold, irritability, drowsiness, poor appetite, sleeplessness, vomiting, stomach pain, hypothermia, rapid breathing. However, for children older than five years, their symptoms are quite similar to that of adults. They include;
- a high fever, sometimes in 48-hour cycles of shivering and then extreme sweating
- nausea and vomiting
- body aches
- loss of appetite
Funny enough, alot of people ( myself inclusive) have become masters at diagnosing malaria, a mother sees the above symptoms manifesting and immediately cooks up malaria. Take note, NOT ALL FEVERS ARE MALARIA. Only a blood test can confirm malaria. So next time you notice those symptoms in your little one, take him/her to the nearest hospital!
Malaria if left untreated can cause serious complications in children some of which includes; anemia, hypoglycemia, convulsion, dehydration, loss of consciousness, pulmonary edema, extremely high fevers, jaundice, bleeding disorders. It can go as far as affecting brain function and even death.
At the moment, work is ongoing to get a vaccine for malaria so we can say there is light at the end of the tunnel. However, we must play our part in ensuring that this scourge does not extinguish the bright future of our young ones. While the preferred drug for use in the treatment of malaria is the ACT (Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy), we can do a whole lot more in preventing this in the first place. You won’t have anything to treat if there is no disease, don’t you think? So here are some preventive measures you can take to end malaria for good;
- As mosquitoes cause this disease, it is important to keep mosquitoes at bay. Try to keep your surroundings free of mosquito breeding grounds, such as stagnant water. Get rid of old flower pots, vases, air coolers and other items that collect water, especially during the rainy season.
- Use of insecticide treated mosquito nets (ITNs)
- Use of age appropriate mosquito repellents and indoor residual spraying
- Installing mosquito meshes on your doors and windows.
- Dressing your child in light-coloured clothing. Dark colours attract mosquitoes.
- Dressing your children in long-sleeved and full length garments to avoid skin exposure.
- Staying in air-conditioned or cool areas. Mosquitoes do not thrive in cold temperatures.
The malaria war can be fought to a stand still. It requires the active efforts of everyone especially the family as it is the first contact point of the child. As the popular saying goes, ” our children are the future of tomorrow”, securing our ‘future’ is very important because no child deserves to die from malaria.