Information and stories about malaria.

Malaria in ThailandThailand is home to nearly 70 million people. The Asian country is known for tropical beaches, opulent palaces and lush elephant rainforests. This extravagant subtropical climate is perfect for tourism but also serves as a breeding ground for mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria. Symptoms of malaria range from fever, seizures and even death. 

5 Facts About Malaria in Thailand

  1. Around 45 percent of the population is at risk of contracting malaria. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 32 million people are at risk of being infected with malaria in Thailand. The country is filled with more than 46 million acres of thick jungle and rainforest. Many citizens live in these dense ecosystems, along with several species of mosquito. The most dangerous areas of transmission are border regions, like the borders with Myanmar and Cambodia. These regions have an abundant population of highly infectious female Anopheles mosquitoes.
  2. The wet season poses the highest risk. The highest risk of malaria in Thailand lies during the rainy season when mosquitoes are most active. The wet season typically occurs from mid-May to mid-October. During this period the presence of the mosquitoes that carry malaria parasites is much higher than other seasons. Of note, the rural areas of Thailand tend to be more affected while larger cities such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya do not experience a high risk of malaria even during the wet season.
  3. Malaria control mechanisms greatly reduce the risk of spreading the disease. Mass free distribution of materials such as insecticide-treated nets (ITNs), long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLIN) and the practice of indoor residual spraying (IRS) reduce the risk of contracting malaria substantially. By eliminating the transmitters, these insecticides are simultaneously eliminating the parasite. The WHO attributes Thailand’s advancement in preventing the spread of the disease to these materials and methods that have proven to provide powerful results.
  4. The Global Fund and UNICEF are helping. In 2010, Thailand’s funding for malaria control exceeded 7 million dollars. Funding has gradually increased year by year, mainly financed by the Global Fund and UNICEF. Thailand, a still-developing country, relies heavily on external aid to support health initiatives. Organizations like Global Fund and UNICEF are saving lives from preventable diseases like malaria through continuous aid.
  5. Cases and deaths of malaria in Thailand are declining. New malaria cases have declined since 2000 and continue to do so rapidly. There are less than 70 annual deaths of malaria in Thailand, which is almost a 90 percent reduction from 20 years ago. The nation’s successes in reducing malaria mortality are attributed to the increased funding for malaria control mechanisms, such as ITNs, LLINs, IRS and other forms of insecticidal materials.

These five facts about malaria in Thailand indicate a positive turn for the developing nation. Although, in rural areas, the disease persists with severity. With continued support from humanitarian aid organizations, Thailand can achieve minimal malaria cases with various control mechanisms.

– Hadley West
Photo: Pixabay

The Malaria Crisis in India
The malaria crisis in India has been an ongoing issue for centuries. However, along with the rest of the world, India has been making significant progress throughout the past few years with respect to decreasing its malaria cases. While millions are still at risk, India has implemented multiple health care plans that have contributed to its malaria reduction.

 What is Malaria?

Malaria is a parasite that mosquitoes spread and can produce a wide range of symptoms including fever, chills, sweating, mental confusion and gastrointestinal symptoms. Malaria is most common in warm, humid and rainy climates because that is where the parasite is able to survive and complete its growth cycle. This is why malaria has been such a prevalent disease in India and in other countries close to the equator. However, despite the stagnant weather patterns, India has been making strides towards a malaria-free nation.

In 1995, there were approximately a total of 2.93 million cases of malaria in India, with about 1,151 deaths from the disease. In comparison, 2017 saw approximately 0.84 cases of the disease in the nation and only 194 deaths.

Eliminating Malaria

Due to a combination of factors, India is on track to complete its goal of total elimination of malaria by 2027. The nation has taken the disease very seriously and has strengthened both its Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP) and the National Health Mission (NHM). A combination of these two programs has helped health professionals and citizens respond to the malaria crisis in India.

A few different strategies currently control malaria cases in India. One is vector control, which means that people control mosquitoes in high-risk areas of malaria with personal protective measures and environmental awareness. Early Case Detection and Prompt Treatment (ECDPT) is a necessary strategy for all cases of malaria, as it not only improves symptoms of the disease in those already infected, but it also helps prevent the spread of the disease by providing treatment at the time of infection.

Since malaria is a very widespread disease across Asia, India is a member of the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN). This is a network that the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA) runs, which has the goal of eliminating malaria and sharing action plans across the countries of that region.

Though there is not a malaria vaccine yet, multiple countries in Africa are currently testing a vaccination program that could make its way to India if successful. A vaccine would be economically friendly for those who are among the poorest in India or live in remote areas, where 90 percent of malaria cases occur. The vaccine would also solve the recent issue of drug-resistant parasites.

World Malaria Day

Every year, on April 25, people celebrate World Malaria Day to encourage everyone’s education about the disease and how to prevent its spread. Four percent of all malaria cases occur in India, a substantial amount, which is why it is important that the awareness of the disease is prevalent in the country.

With the significant progress that the country has made in eliminating malaria, India will continue to defy odds by continuing to empower communities and committing to further action plans.  This will ensure that the malaria crisis in India will no longer pose a major threat to its population.

– Alyson Kaufman
Photo: Pixabay

Mobile Technology Solutions for Developing Countries
Mobile line subscriptions in developing countries are at 98.7 percent. In fact, nations with lower economies have more access to mobile devices than to water or electricity. Here are five mobile technology solutions for developing countries.

5 Mobile Technology Solutions for Developing Countries

  1. iCow: A Kenyan farmer named Su Kahumbu Stephanou created an application called iCow. One can easily download the app to a mobile device and run it off of SMS, which can make it accessible to the vast majority of people. The app helps farmers and shepherds track the gestation periods of their cows. It can also connect farmers to each other so they can offer advice on taking care of their animals. The app provides the user with helpful locations such as insemination centers and veterinarians. Moreover, the system has a menu so the users can select what they need wherever they are. This improvement makes it much easier for users to monitor the health of their cows. The regions using iCow the most are Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania. App usage has resulted in both income and productivity. In addition, it serves to improve milk, poultry, eggs, crops, soil fertility, mortality rates and overall health.
  2. RapidSMS: RapidSMS is an open-source platform that UNICEF and Pivot Access developed in 2007. It originally emerged to collect data and create activities for children. However, it adapted to its user bases’ needs over time. Now, RapidSMS lets users make data collection and SMS services in its communities. This makes information available over the internet to all users. The app is also able to register births, monitor nutrition and remotely diagnose patients. The regions using RapidSMS the most are Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia.
  3. M-PESA or Mobile Pesa: This application works with money. It is a mobile system that helps users transfer, deposit and withdraw money. M-PESA is for people who cannot access these services because of their location. The application works through SMS by loading money onto a SIM card and sending it to its desired phone. The minimum amount of money is KSHS 101 and the maximum is KSHS 70,000. In addition, it converts the amount into cash at any legitimate establishment. Then, the recipient receives said funds in their country’s currency. Villages in Kenya mostly used M-PESA, but it has expanded to countries in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. If one wishes to send money to someone in South Africa, they must first enter a secret word. Additionally, the recipient must know this word in order to receive the money. App usage resulted in an increase in income and a decrease in petty crime related to money.
  4. WorldReader: WorldReader is an NGO, with the support of USAID and other institutions, that distributed upwards of 30,000 e-readers in 16 African countries. Its application translates books into 52 languages. Also, the application makes education and reading much more prevalent in developing countries. So far, it has 35,000 titles for its user base of more than 10 million.
  5. Malaria-Diagnosing App: An upcoming application has the design to detect malaria in patients. More people will be able to use the application because it will be automated and mobile. The system uses Giemsa-stained peripheral blood samples, light microscopy, AI and image processing techniques to find Plasmodium falciparum species, a parasite that carries malaria. Concepts from the integral image and haar-like features inspire the algorithm. Thus far, its accuracy is 91 percent. Once released, it plans should be easily accessible through health centers and mobile devices. In addition, its automation makes it much easier for medical professionals to diagnose malaria without expensive equipment or much knowledge of malaria itself.

These five mobile technology solutions each allow a unique benefit to challenges that developing countries face. Through technology like iCow, M-PESA and WorldReader, farmers can maximize their crops, those with limited access to financial institutions can still deposit and transfer money, while people can access multitudes of books in their chosen language.

– Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

New Ebola and Malaria Vaccines
In December 2019, the Gavi Board, an organization that improves the accessibility of immunizations to vulnerable children, approved a new program that will allocate new Ebola vaccines. A new funding initiative will invest about $178 million by 2025 for a new program to develop the vaccines. The decision is monumental in leading global health emergency stockpiles, which will grow to 500,000 doses.

Ebola’s Effect on Poverty

A study in December 2014 in Liberia indicated that the infectious disease hits poorer neighborhoods most. People in poverty are 3.5 times more likely to contract the disease than those in wealthier areas. Due to the dense population and lack of sanitation and health care facilities, the people in these communities are more susceptible to the virus. Ebola first appeared on an epidemic level in West Africa in 2014. While it existed prior to that, those cases were more contained. Crowded urban areas resulted in higher transference, further developing the outbreak.

Malaria Vaccines

In addition to the Ebola vaccine, Gavi approved continued steps in curating an implementation program for new malaria vaccines. The routine distribution of these vaccines will reduce child death significantly. Malaria is the primary cause of death of children under 5-years-old, with a reported 228 million cases and 405,000 deaths in 2018 alone. Malaria is also one of the top four causes of poverty, according to the United Nations. Its lack of affordable measures has strained many African economies, costing an estimated $30 billion a year. Many people cannot afford efficient medication and 20 percent often die due to poorly distributed drugs.

Countries affected by poverty and low income will have access to these vaccination campaigns free of charge, which will help boost economies. Countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have continually experienced rash Ebola outbreaks, with the latest one being in August 2018. Since then, the DRC has grappled with over 2,200 lives lost and 3,421 more reported cases in January 2020. In July 2019, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak a public health emergency that called for international concern.

The US Fights Against Ebola

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will also participate in close efforts to fight the Ebola outbreak in the DRC. The FDA granted programs in order to advance the development of new drugs that will lead to the prevention of tropical diseases. People primarily contract Ebola through direct contact with bodily fluids, blood and infected wild animals or people. Limiting these factors is difficult, but with proper medication and programs, along with the investments in sanitation and health care facilities, outbreaks will significantly reduce. These types of decisions are paramount in shifting the United States’ focus to a more global standpoint in regards to large-scale poverty.

The development of Ebola and malaria vaccination pilots is essential to the sustainability of areas affected by extreme poverty. Preventable measures will reduce the risk of contracting infectious diseases among these low-income communities. These comprehensive overviews will scale back the rate of Ebola outbreaks in African regions, which will also cut back on excessive government spending. Vaccination programs will help prevent 24 million people from facing extreme poverty by 2030. People could prevent a quarter of deaths that the outbreaks caused through simple vaccination, which makes these programs all the more noteworthy. The Gavi Board and the FDA’s efforts in launching new malaria and Ebola vaccines will contribute to the positive impact.

Brittany Adames
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Because International is Aiding Children
There is an invention that is changing the lives of millions living in poverty around the world. A leather sandal, called The Shoe That Grows, has been making a big difference for children living without shoes that properly fit them. Kenton Lee, a pastor and founder of the nonprofit organization Because International, designed the shoe. He came up with the idea during a six-month stay in Kenya. He originated this new brand of footwear that has benefited those who have outgrown their previous pairs of shoes. Because International is aiding children in developing countries that live without proper-sized shoes and are vulnerable to serious injuries and parasites.

More than 300 children from poor families are in need of a pair of properly fitting and long-lasting shoes. Using materials around his house, Lee used the plastic part of a baseball cap to have a makeshift expanding shoe. He also used tacks and soft foam to create pegs, allowing the shoe to expand.

“The design process was interesting because I am not a designer, and I knew nothing about shoes,” Lee told Bored Panda. “I was just a normal guy with an idea.”

Helminth Infections

More than 225,000 pairs of adjustable sandals are distributed to more than 100 countries around the world. The previous lack of this resource has prevented kids from attending school daily and staying healthy. More than 1.5 billion people worldwide have suffered from soil-transmitted helminth infections, in which parasitic worms transmitted by eggs pass through the feces of those infected by the disease. The adult worms live in the intestines where they produce eggs every day. Helminth infections also weaken an individual’s nutritional status by feeding on host tissues including blood which leads to a loss of protein and iron. In addition to helminth infections, hookworms, which are also parasitic, cause intestinal blood loss that results in anemia.

As for the organization’s long-term goals, it plans on continuing distribution to poor countries. This provides an economic improvement, in which job creation appears, low shipping for merchants, decreased carbon footprinting and overall innovation of footwear that will increase economic growth while fighting poverty.

The Bednet Buddy

Because International is also aiding children through its invention to protect kids vulnerable to mosquitoes. The Bednet Buddy is also available on its official website; a pop-up net lined with long-lasting insecticides, which are synthetic substances for killing insects. The Bednet Buddy has the guarentee to protect children aged 5 and under from mosquito bites while sleeping. Lee, who also invented this protective kit, came up with the idea during the same visit to Kenya. He visited an orphanage where children were sleeping without bedding or a roof over their heads during the night, leaving them more vulnerable for mosquito bites, increasing the chance of catching malaria.

The organization has made about 1,000 nets and sent 700 to the west-central region of Africa for testing, so the organization has already manufactured the product and some have already used it. Because International is still working toward making improvements to the product that it has yet to reveal.

GroFive

Because International also has a sister company for commercial use called GroFive. Because International primarily owns GroFive and is a small-time player in the American footwear industry. Where parents typically run out to buy their children more pairs of shoes, costing them hundreds of dollars, the company decided to use the idea of The Shoe That Grows for American consumers. The key is to sell the product domestically where parents can purchase this type of shoe for a low price instead of buying multiple pairs for higher prices. GroFive sells its expanded sandals, or “expandals,” for both kids and adults at $39.95 a pair.

Pursuit Incubator

In addition, Because International has also developed a program for struggling entrepreneurs to take their new ideas to the next level. Known as the Pursuit Incubator, Because International offers training to get new businesses off the ground and to mobilize them to their target audience. It even gives guidance and funding that help support these new entrepreneurs as they embark on growing their businesses.

Overall, Because International is aiding children through its consistency in making products and services that can help serve those in need. In addition to The Shoe That Grows, it is capable of making more products. It can market these for use in underprivileged and developed nations alike. Finally, it provides services to help others with their own products.

– Tom Cintula
Photo: Flickr

Our Health Reduces Mosquito-Borne Illnesses
Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, including malaria and the Zika virus, abound in hotter, more humid countries and regions including Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and tropical areas of Southeast Asia, Oceania and Africa. Whereas malaria has many symptoms like high fever, diarrhea, nausea and sweating, the Zika virus is not as easily detectable. Its symptoms are milder, and this includes rashes, itching, high fever and muscle pain. Accordingly, the organization Our Health reduces mosquito-borne illnesses in Honduras through numerous efforts.

The Ways that Our Health Reduces Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

Our Health is a project that Global Communities runs and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funds. It works with the Honduran Ministry of Health (SESAL). There are two parts to Our Health, which focuses on strengthening communities and improving education.

The goals of the first part are to increase the number of response activities in Honduran communities to prevent Zika transmission and to improve the communication of said activities. This focus is on the poor, urban areas of Honduras, including Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Choloma, La Lima and Villanueva. At the moment, Our Health has 36 health establishments and 360 communities to help prevent the spread of the Zika virus. However, being successful in promoting the power of communities means it must have a way to implement this community-based solution. Its implementation phase takes an estimated three years with the first phase taking one year. The first phase fosters community-led responses to Zika outbreaks and building up communities in general. The second phase takes the remaining two years. This phase continues to strengthen the relationships from the first phase, organizing the community, allocating responsibilities and promoting positive behavior.

The second part of Our Health focuses on three aspects:

  1. Education
  2. Working with the Honduran Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health
  3. Improve understanding of these diseases including how they spread and how people can prevent them
Our Health reduces mosquito-borne illnesses by educating children to bring awareness to their families. The children can teach their families what they have learned. This does not have a predicted time period but has already started in 76 educational centers in Honduras, benefiting 29,000 kids and 1,230 teachers. The program provides teachers with virtual training and teaching materials to prevent the transmission and spread of Zika. This also supports the first part of Our Health in promoting community participation. Moreover, fifth and sixth graders receive education on how to prevent disease through a number of activities including theater, poetry, singing and drawing, as well as creating models to show their own knowledge about the Zika virus. The teachers firmly believe that addressing Zika in the classroom and spreading the knowledge to homes and communities is vital.

General Solution to Malaria

The Honduran Ministry of Health recently received a donation of more than 12 million lempiras (around $487,899 USD) in Hudson pumps, deltamethrin and bendiocarb (insecticides) and mosquito nets treated with long-lasting insecticide. People also know this as MTILD. It is using this donation to fight Anopheles and Aedes mosquitoes which spread the Zika virus. MTILD use in vector control strategies and are effective in preventing malaria.

The Ministry of Health implemented these methods in Gracias a Dios and Islas de la Bahía. In addition, the Ministry of Health installs the insecticide-filled pumps in each home. This helps spray the homes on a bi-yearly basis and keeps mosquitoes away. In 2018, two spray cycles sprayed around 50,000 homes. As a result, this helped 303,467 people. Furthermore, in 2019, it expected to spray around 60,000 double-cycle homes. This protected an additional 218,959 people. For 2020, the biyearly spray might increase by 62,050 and with an additional 116,872 mosquito nets installed. As for cases of malaria, as of 2017, 1,287 people received treatment against malaria. In 2018, there were 651 cases. Additionally, the project hopes to lower it to zero cases in 2020.

Honduras’s Health Surveillance Unit works towards controlling malaria in the country. Over the past three years, malaria cases have been lower than 56 percent in the six biggest departments of Honduras. It works together with communities to address malaria Also, Honduras’s Health Surveillance Unit monitors the areas with surveillance, increases their coverage and secures treatment for victims.

Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Burundi's Health Care
Burundi is a Central African nation, bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda. Those living within the nation face a plethora of challenges from civil wars to disease and a general state of civil unrest. On top of this, Burundi‘s health care requires efforts to reduce the spread of disease and provide better care to those affected.

The State of Burundi’s Health Care

The fear of communicable diseases grew exponentially following the multiple Ebola outbreaks in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. This illuminated the glaring flaws in Burundi’s health care system and an overall lack of preparedness for such a potentially deadly epidemic.

USAID has stated that Burundi’s health care system faces a “lack of adequate infrastructure and human resources to meet urgent community health needs.” Although the inadequacies are plentiful and debilitating, with relentless efforts, some are providing hope by way of ingenuity in Burundi’s health care system

Malaria

There were reports of over 7 million malaria cases in Burundi within the first 10 months of 2019. This is roughly 64 percent higher than the total recorded cases for 2018. The cause of this spike is a subject of debate, with experts citing climate change and an unequipped health care system as possible culprits.

A protozoan parasite causes malaria. After a bite from an infected mosquito, the protozoan parasite invades the red blood cells. People infected with malaria often experience flu-like symptoms. In 2017, there were records of 219 million cases of malaria, along with approximately 435,000 deaths. The vast majority of these cases were in Africa.

Many Burundians have taken refuge from the malaria epidemic in neighboring Rwanda. Although advances in fighting the disease remain somewhat stagnant in Burundi, Rwanda is succeeding in limiting the outbreak. Rwanda began coating refugee camps and homes with indoor residual spray. Since then, Rwanda experienced 430,000 fewer cases after just one year utilizing this method. Burundi, with a similar socioeconomic state as Rwanda, leads many to believe these methods could be beneficial for great success in both countries.

Cholera

Beginning in June 2019, a cholera outbreak overcame the city of Bujumbura, the most densely populated city in Burundi. With over 1,000 cases recorded, this far exceeds the national yearly average of about 200 to 250.

Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection caused by coming into contact with fecal matter, which is commonplace in bodies of still water. The disease causes severe diarrhea, which almost inevitably leads to dehydration. It can progress exceptionally fast, necessitating medical care within hours of infection.

Even with cholera’s endemic level in the city of Bujumbura, there have been minimal deaths. This is in large part due to the development of three cholera treatment facilities within the area. Many of the medical facilities face the incapability of treating the disease. However, with minimal investment, the country could make drastic changes for the better.

Ebola

Although the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has not moved into Burundi as of yet, the risk is high. This is largely due to the fact that many Burundians work and trade in the neighboring DRC. The border town of Gatumba, for instance, averages 6,000 border crossings every weekday and 3,000 border crossings on the weekends.

Ebola, a contagious virus, spreads through contact with bodily fluids (such as blood, urine, breast milk, semen and fecal matter). Ebola is classified as a hemorrhagic fever virus. This is due to the fact that Ebola causes issues with the clotting of blood. The issues with clotting often lead to blood leaking from blood vessels within the body, causing internal bleeding.

In an attempt to spread awareness, a fleet of vans equipped with speakers and filled with UNICEF workers are traveling around Burundi and educating on ways to prevent the spread of Ebola. Many of those living in Burundi are unaware that things such as proper hand-washing techniques can be the difference between life and death. Through education and increased communication within the community, many are optimistic regarding Burundi’s fight against the spread of Ebola.

Although Burundi faces much to overcome, through proper allocation of resources and help from an international audience, Burundi’s health care system can flourish, saving countless lives.

Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Studying Human Behavior Can Help Eradicate Malaria

Bed nets. Insecticide. Preventative medicine. These are the tools that are most known for fighting malaria—and for good reason. Tactics like these have saved millions of lives. However, when a country manages to eliminate most incidences of malaria, the traditional techniques lose their impact. One group of researchers, realizing the need for new strategies against malaria, decided to not focus on mosquitoes (the traditional tactic) but on humans themselves. Ultimately, studying human behavior can help eradicate malaria by targeting weak spots in preventative plans and providing a clearer implementation of resources. To better understand malaria, its far-reaching impacts and the importance of a new human-centered technique, it is helpful to start from the beginning.

What is Malaria and How Was it Treated in the Past?

Malaria has plagued humans for, quite literally, as long as humanity remembers. The earliest written records  — Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets — describe symptoms characteristic of the disease. Scientists found human remains dating back to 3200 BC with malaria antigens. Ancient scholars called the illness the “king of diseases.” It certainly lives up to the title. It is thousands of years old and it has killed hundreds of millions of people.

Anopheles mosquitoes, most active at dusk and night-time, are responsible for the malaria parasite’s spread. Carried in the insect’s stomach, the parasite enters the human bloodstream through the mosquitoes’ saliva (the same substance that makes bites itch and swell) as they feed.

Humans first exhibit symptoms a week or so after infection. If untreated, the disease quickly becomes serious. Sufferers feel flu-like symptoms, including body aches, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. Patients can die within 48 hours after they first exhibit symptoms.

In 1820, chemists developed quinine, the first modern pharmacological treatment for malaria. In the 1900s, the men who identified the malaria parasite, demonstrated that mosquitoes were responsible for transmission and developed the mosquito-repelling insecticide DDT all won Nobel Prizes for their respective discoveries. Understanding and preventing malaria were matters of great international importance.

What is Malaria’s Global Presence Today?

Fighting this disease remains a top global priority. Modern preventative measures now include insecticide-treated bed nets (to keeps the nocturnal malaria-carrying mosquitos away) and indoor sprays. Children in high-transmission areas are also eligible for seasonal malaria chemoprevention. Thanks to a surge in global humanitarian attention, the disease’s presence has fallen worldwide. Between 2010 and 2017, malaria incidence decreased by nearly 20 percent and fatalities decreased by nearly 30 percent.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 216 million clinical cases still occurred worldwide in 2016 alone, resulting in 445,000 deaths. The disease causes a massive drain on economies, due to healthcare costs and loss of workforce efficiency. In sub-Saharan Africa, where potent strains of the parasite thrive, those damaging effects are especially notable. Malaria and its effects cost Africa a stunning $12 billion every year and, because people living near unclean water sources and insecure housing are most at risk, malaria disproportionally affects the impoverished. By prohibiting individuals from attending work or school, let alone its potential to kill, malaria perpetuates the cycle of poverty. While reducing prevalence is a key factor, eradication continues to be the ultimate goal. That means the end to malaria’s ill-effects on communities, particularly impoverished ones.

How Studying Human Behavior Can Help Eradicate Malaria

When regions successfully employ traditional tactics, as many have, they find themselves with a new problem. “Lingering cases” is a term used to describe when a region no longer experiences outbreaks, but that the disease still exists locally. In general, eliminating any illness gets harder the fewer instances of it that occur. Tracking the carrier mosquitoes is infeasible, if not impossible. However, researchers in Zanzibar took a new approach – they decided to track humans instead.

In July 2019, the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs published an article in Malaria Journal that details the reasoning behind the new technique. While indoor measures work, people are not necessarily confined to the home at nighttime. One Zanzibari woman remarked in an interview, “When you are outside, you can’t really wear the bed nets, can you?” Existing steps against malaria are not effective outdoors, which makes it nearly impossible to eliminate the last few cases.

Researchers conducted over 60 in-depth interviews and studied routine human movements: between homes, stores, public spaces, religious services and even special events, like weddings. They found many insights. For example, men were at the highest risk for infection because they most often work or socialize outside after dark. There is also a notable population of seasonal workers that come to Zanzibar from Tanzania’s mainland. These individuals rarely own mosquito nets nor insecticides to spray their residences. Better understanding the movements of people vulnerable to malaria, as well as those that find themselves periodically unprotected, is important. That information allows scientists to create better-targeted interventions, including community support programs, outdoor areas with preventative measures, and basic indoor resources for those without.

Small scale use of these techniques has proven effective, and the researchers behind this investigation believe they could be scaled up successfully. Best of all, 26 other countries have similarly low rates of malaria incidence. If Zanzibar, a high-transmission area for the parasite, could push back against this disease so successfully, other countries could benefit greatly from the same changes.

Conclusion

Malaria, a disease that has lasted for around 5000 years, has never been closer to eradication. The last century has seen a great surge in momentum for fighting this illness. The results are stunning; millions of lives saved, several countries eliminated the disease entirely, and dozens more are nearing that goal. In turn, people have prospered. For every dollar invested in African malaria control, the continent sees 40 dollars in economic growth. Much of that prosperity goes back to impoverished people, who can thrive with less illness and more economic efficiency. Now, researchers are pursuing the “last mile” strategies. Studying human behavior can help eradicate malaria by preventing remote cases. Total eradication and the end of malaria’s drain on the impoverished has never been closer.

– Molly Power
Photo: Wikimedia

Malaria treatment

At the young age of six years old, YouTube and comedy star Kacaman (aka Darcy Irakoze) just became the latest victim of malaria in Burundi. He was one of the biggest names in Burundi’s comedy scene and had thousands of views on YouTube. His videos, featuring the rural dirt floors and rusty villages of Burundi, were lighthearted and melodramatic skits starring himself and other comedians/actors. Darcy Irakoze is just one example of the need to improve malaria treatment in Burundi.

A Silent Crisis

Kacaman’s death brings to light an often-unspoken crisis: Burundi’s malaria epidemic. Nearly half of the country’s population has been affected by malaria this year. Of that number, 1800 have died from the disease. This staggering amount actually rivals the number of deaths from Ebola in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Poor preventative measures have been the driving factors behind the epidemic. These include a lack of mosquito nets, the movement of the population with low immunity to malaria from mountain areas to city areas and various changes in climate. The crisis has received some attention from the World Health Organization and the United Nations, but it remains remarkably untouched as a result of the current leadership. Afraid of admitting weakness in health policies, President Nkurunziza is hesitant to admit he needs help increasing malaria treatment.

An Epidemic of the Poor

The brutal reality that a six-year-old boy in Burundi can access the internet and YouTube but not malaria treatment presents a serious call for action. Often referred to as the “epidemic of the poor,” malaria disproportionately affects poverty-stricken areas like Burundi because of the expense required to purchase preventative measures and medical treatment.

The disease presents many ramifications for family members of the sick. They deal with psychological pain, the strain on already tight budgets and job loss. Additionally, malaria damages the economic wellbeing of countries as it decreases the chances of tourism and foreign investment. This keeps poor countries in a vicious cycle because they are unable to provide enough funds for malaria treatments or to improve other aspects of their country.

What Is Being Done?

Innovations like the Kite patch offer promising improvement for malaria prevention. The patch works by making humans virtually invisible to mosquitoes for up to 6 hours, stopping any bites. The company is working to distribute the patch around the world through the Kite-Malaria-Free Campaign, but it still needs more funding. The World Health Organization has launched the “high burden high impact” campaign as a response to countries facing extremely large epidemics. This entails a more aggressive approach to preventing and treating malaria by working with national governments in each of the countries to create an organized and strategic approach.

Increasing prevention is still vital in the fight against malaria. Widespread distribution of mosquito nets and insecticide in areas where these items are inaccessible or too expensive could yield massive results. More effective antimalarial treatments are also needed to fight malaria. The problem of the developing resistance to antimalarials in certain populations needs to be addressed to increase the efficacy of the drugs. Finally, a successful malaria vaccination needs to be more accessible. A semi-effective vaccine has been developed, but the technology still requires some fine-tuning.

It is likely at least one child will have died from malaria in the last minute. Kacaman was one of those children. His death should inspire a revitalized passion and determination to conquer malaria. While some incredible advances have been made, more is needed. Hopefully, these efforts can make this world one where malaria treatment and prevention is just as viral as YouTube.

Hannah Stewart
Photo: Flickr

Dams and Malaria
Despite the fact that malaria transmission rates have decreased by more than 40 percent since 2000, the morbid disease still affects a large number of people on the African continent. According to WHO, an estimated 219 million cases of malaria occurred in 2017 and a disproportionate 92 percent of these cases happened in Africa. Of these numbers, people can attribute at least 1.1 million cases to dams.

The Relationship Between Dams and Malaria

Mosquitoes tend to lay eggs and reproduce in shallow pools of water or somewhere in the near vicinity. Thus, water is a key component in the spread of malaria. The erection of dams creates a multitude of shallow pools along the edges of the water base that provide ideal situations for mosquitoes to nest. This increases the prevalence of malaria and the susceptibility of individuals to malaria.

A study published in the Malaria Journal found that the slope of the shoreline was the most determining factor of a rise in malaria for areas that had dams. Since mosquitoes like to breed in shallow pools of water that do not connect to a larger, main body of water, the shoreline around a dam is a prime location that meets these requirements. The more inclined a slope is, the more water drains out. This means that static pools of water are unable to form, which in turn means that mosquitoes do not find areas of the steep slope to be habitable.

Due to factors like this, not all dams are likely to increase malaria. Reservoirs that have steeper slopes pose a smaller risk of increasing the spread of malaria. For example, the climate and geography at a dam site, temperature fluctuations, elevation and amount of rainfall, also influence the spread of malaria near reservoirs. Thus, the continual study of the relationship between dams and malaria can lead to further identification of factors that increase the risk of spreading disease.

Solutions

Similarly, development planners must carefully select dam sites so that economic growth and electricity generation do not compromise the well-being of a local population. Increasing awareness through activism could see a more informed class of development planners take more calculated and careful approaches to dam construction. Indeed, a greater exchange of knowledge between local populations, journalists, researchers and policymakers is necessary to see increasing benefits and minimization of negative impacts.

This is arguably more important now than ever. As of 2015, 18.7 million Africans reside within five kilometers of dam reservoirs. Policymakers must take measures to ensure that quality of life does not deteriorate for those living near artificially constructed reservoirs. The relationship between dams and malaria is a critical nexus that can inform the implementation of less detrimental policies by those who are in a position to make such a policy.

– Evan Williams
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