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TIPS ON MALARIA

  • HOW CAN MOSQUITOES BE CONTROLLED?

    Mosquitoes around the home can be reduced significantly by minimizing the amount of standing water available for mosquito breeding. Residents are urged to reduce standing water around the home in a variety of ways.

  • HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF FROM MOSQUITO-BORN DISEASES?

    The best way is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.This can be accomplished using personal protecting  while outdoors when mosquitoes are present. Treated bed nets should be used sleeping. Mosquito repellent should be used when outdoor.

  • WHO ARE AT RISK?


    Nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of getting malaria. Pregnant women are particularly at risk of malaria. Children under 5 years are at high risk of malaria.
     

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Bed nets really work

A few months after a mass distribution of free mosquito nets, Malawi appears to be on course to bring down the malaria burden and prevent unnecessary illnesses and deaths.
Signs are emerging that the beneficiaries are getting the message on their role in the fight against malaria.

A local saying, ‘kupewa kuposa kuchiza’, meaning prevention is better than cure, seems to do the trick. It is teaching and cautioning people to avoid the danger of getting infected by malaria at a time when bed nets are saving lives.

In Malawi, it is not uncommon to bump into a signpost which says “prevention.” The messages read thus “malaria kills” or “sleep under a mosquito net.”

One can also easily see similar messages at the hospital or the ante-natal clinic, with tit bits on prevention.

This is well-founded because of the peculiar realities in Malawi where records indicate that malaria is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality, in pregnant women and children aged under-5 and also the most common cause of outpatient attendance, hospitalization and death.

Bernard Chawiya, a community health surveillance assistant (HAS) at the Catholic-owned Mtengowanthenga hospital says after the people in the community received the free mosquito nets there is a reduction in malaria cases.

The hospital is located about 30 kilometres outside Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe and it mainly serves people from the city but also largely from the surrounding communities, which comprises low income earners.

The hospital is precisely located in a district called Dowa which is among the areas that benefitted from a free distribution of mosquito nets.

“Our evaluation shows that we had 247 cases in 2011 but in 2012 we have so far recorded twenty something cases. We distributed mosquito nets to all the people here. Before the mass net distribution, we used to have serious bouts of malaria. Our hospital was getting many cases but now the situation has improved,” Chawiya said.

And about 10 kilometres deep into the rural areas, a village chief Mononga told another success story. He and his subjects received the mosquito nets in December last year.

He said “I believe everyone is sleeping under the nets. I am confident because there are fewer cases of people suffering from malaria these days than in the past before we got the
nets.

Although it is difficult to ascertain if people are sleeping under the nets, I have noted the effects in the lower cases of malaria.”

“As members of the village, we established a village committee whose main role is to go from house to house encouraging people to sleep under the nets. We want to make malaria history in this area,” said the chief.

“The good news is that I haven’t received any report of someone having his or her net torn. This is encouraging news that my people are protected. I feel bad when I hear they are suffering from malaria. It affects their participation in development works,” he said.

Sabina Damiano is a resident of Mononga village.  The woman is gifted and has been made a leader in the village when it comes to issues of hygiene and sanitation.

According to Sabina the nets really helped the people. “After we received the nets, we have been sleeping under them. They are very strong. For me I got two nets because we are four in our family. Though we share I would have loved if we had a net for each of us,” she added.

Malawi is a small country in South East part of Africa and the poor are vulnerable to malaria attacks.

The disease is responsible for a greater portion of hospitalizations and deaths of people in Malawi, particularly children under the age of five and pregnant women, said the Malawi Demographic Health Survey (MDHS) of 2010.

Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to malaria because their immune systems are suppressed, as indicated by the MDHS, official government document that contains the core information on health and related issues.

The MDHS showed how malaria causes anaemia, low birth weight and spontaneous abortion. The catastrophic effect of this disease has cost Malawi billions of dollars.

Wilfred Dodoli of World Health Organisation office in Malawi emphasises, “The malaria parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquitoes, they breed in shallow collections of freshwater like puddles, rice fields, and hoof prints. In Malawi transmission is stable throughout the year.”

In counting the general disease and death toll, Malaria takes in women, Dodoli further said, “Malaria is also a cause of severe maternal anaemia and is responsible for about one third of preventable low birth weight babies. It contributes tothe deaths of an estimated 10 000 pregnant women and up to 200, 000 infants each year in Africa alone.”

Malawi is one of the countries with high levels of Malaria transmission and Dodoli explains in terms of economics.

“Malaria causes significant economic losses, and can decrease gross domestic product (GDP) by as much as 1.3 per cent in countries with high levels of transmission.”

In trying to combat the disease, the government of Malawi developed a Malaria Communication Strategy for the country spanning 2009 to 2014.

Malaria is having a major impact on the economic development of Malawi, with 28 per cent of household incomes spent on treating and dealing with the outcomes of malaria as captured by the government of Malawi Malaria Strategy Plan 2005-2010).

According to the report, malaria and other associated conditions are estimated to be responsible for about 40 per cent of all under-five hospitalizations and 30 per cent of all hospital deaths in under-five children.

As one way of dealing with malaria, government also highlighted in its National Malaria Policy, which shows that information, education and communication (IEC) improves recognition of malaria by individuals and child carers. Sogovernment joined forces with other players in the industry to achieve this, of course by combining with other interventions.

Such interventions include, government towing the line of current World Health Organisation recommendations on implementing a universal access to free long lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets to its populace.

And this is in line with the country’s strategy, which states that, it is especially important that all pregnant women and children aged under-5 sleep under a long lasting insecticide treated net every night, all year round.

Malaria prevention activities have taken the front burner in recent times, bringing in its wake many success stories, with both governments and the private sector playing key roles to minimise the harm that malaria brings along.    

One success story in recent times is the work that NetsforLife, a private NGO is doing. Since its inception in 2006, the NetsforLife programme partnership has distributed a total of 8.5 million mosquito nets as part of its campaign to fight malaria, according to their 2011 annual report.

NetsforLife operates on the philosophy that a great impact can be made when the private sector partners with faith-based organizations to achieve a common goal.

The NGO says it has been able to reduce illness and saved lives in places where malaria used to be the number one cause of death for vulnerable people, especially the immune-compromised and children under five.

The NetsforLife model of combining the hanging of bed nets with education and community outreach has proven itself to be wonderfully effective, and it is believed it will help move countries toward achieving the targets outlined in the Millennium Development Goals.
 
- By Samuel Chibaya - Malawi
 

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