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The Latest Edition of "Eyes on malaria" magazine will be out very soon!! | CALL FOR ARTICLES: AMMREN is inviting journalists / writers / scientists interested in reporting on malaria to send articles for publication in its international magazine “Eyes on Malaria” and for posting on its website. Please contact the AMMREN Secretariat for more details click here. Enjoy your stay!. Volunteers and interns urgently needed to work with an NGO working in the area of malaria and health. Apply through - ammren1@gmail.com / ammren1@yahoo.com. Journalists interested in reporting on and writing articles on health issues should please reply through this email: ammren1@gmail.com

ANNOUNCEMENTS:::

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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  • Volume 1

A child shows the way

It was in the evening of an exceptionally hot day. I gave myself a thorough bath and jumped into my favourite settee to catch the evening news on television.

The main stories showed nothing really interesting, until suddenly a news item caught my attention.

 “Today is World Malaria Day” I heard the newscaster say. I checked the calendar and it was 25th April. I deduced from the details of the story that malaria’s main victims are young children and pregnant women, and it kills about one million people yearly.
That certainly heightened my curiosity. “World Malaria Day?”
 I asked myself, “What was there to celebrate?”

As I watched the doctors and pharmacists being interviewed, I realised they were just telling us what we already knew. Malaria is caused by the plasmodium parasite, spread by the female anopheles mosquitoes. What was more worrying to me was the high mortality rate. Why should so many people die needlessly from this disease?

My mum and I began talking after the news. According to her, malaria was the fear of every mother with kids under five years, because at their tender age, they have very low resistance. The high fevers that go with it could even make a child convulse. I asked how she had managed to raise us, four boys (aged 16, 14, 5 and 3) with a very low malaria record.
She said she practiced preventive malaria treatment that is making us take the complete course of malaria syrup every quarter of the year. It dawned on me that it could be drug abuse. “What was the alternative?” she asked. For her, it worked perfectly and would have none of my arguments about drug abuse blah, blah, blah.

I decided to do a little research about malaria outside my family circle. I wanted to do a little bit of “investigative journalism”. I left the house in high spirits the following morning. I strolled leisurely towards Bongo Pharmacy, around the Walantu area, a little distance from Windy Hill, where we live in Kasoa in the Central Region.

I mentally went over my questionnaire. As I approached the shop, I felt a bit apprehensive and nervous. It was pretty obvious I was losing steam. All the bubbly feeling and self-confidence I had before suddenly evaporated, leaving me deflated.

The time was a little past 9:00a.m and there were no customers in the shop. The owner, Mr Bongo, possibly in his early fifties, sat behind the counter, picking his nose with passion.

 “Good morning sir. “Morning” he replied nonchalantly.
I asked whether he had any medicine for malaria. “For adults or children?” he retorted. I said it was for me.

The drugs he had for sale were ArtemetherLumefantrine and ArtesunateAmodiaquine. I asked whether he had any for children under five. The frown on his wrinkled face tightened and his mouth twitched as he seemed to be losing his patience for me.

He was more interested in what I wanted to buy. Using my seeming ignorance as a cover up, I asked him to recommend the most effective one to buy. This was to check how much he himself knew about the drugs and its dosage. I was taken aback when he took a bottle of locally prepared tonic or concoction with the inscription “MALARIA AWAY” printed on its label, sold at about two US dollars.

He said that was the most effective malaria tonic. Many more questions crowded my mind. Being a locally prepared tonic, had it been certified by the Ghana Standards Board? Did it have an expiry date? Besides, I didn’t have a cent on me to buy it!

What was I going to do now? I told him I was going to tell my mum about the available options and would be back to make my purchase.

This did not go down well with Mr Bongo at all. He tightened the mean look on his face and that sent me backing out of the shop. My journalistic adventure had not been exciting as I had expected. Certainly, it was not easy to be a daring journalist.  

I drew a few conclusions, though. If the malaria herbal tonic was more popular than the regular drugs, people would be doing themselves more harm than good!

I decided to talk to my mum into escorting me to the Justub Clinic, located along the Kasoa-Accra highway, to continue with my research. Seeing how serious I was, she obliged to do so. At the hospital, we stated our mission to the Administrator, Mr Ato Wellington Addo.

Luck was on our side as he turned out to be very pleasant, co-operative and willing (unlike Mr Bongo), to answer any question. He however referred to their pharmacist to give us more information. From him, I learnt that they treated approximately 30 malaria cases daily with about 80% of them being children between 2-12years old. I learnt that severe malaria could lead to several neurological disorders including learning disorders and even death.

The experienced pharmacist also took us through the life cycle of the mosquito. From him, we learnt that the life of the mosquito goes through four stages. The egg stage, larval stage, pupa stage and the adult mosquito stage. He also gave us an in-depth explanation of the feeding process of the mosquito.

When it finds a human host, it lands on fleshy parts of the body including the arms, legs and thighs. It then uses its sharp proboscis to penetrate the layers of skin to suck blood (bears a striking resemblance to sipping Coca-Cola with a straw). In doing so, it ejects the plasmodium parasites which migrate into the liver, where it multiplies to generate thousands of new parasites, which then invade the red blood cells.

The red blood cells are invaded when infected liver cells burst, releasing the parasite. Further multiplication occurs in the red blood cells, causing them to burst and infect new red blood cells. Malaria then erupts.
It was beginning to get really interesting. Mum, sensing it was getting late, politely thanked the pharmacist and we left.

As I lay on my bed that evening, I analysed what the pharmacist said. Why do so many people have to die from this disease? I wondered for the first time in my fourteen years of existence. How can such a small insect be responsible for about one million deaths annually? Still surprising is the fact that the breeding places of the mosquito constitute a part of our physical environment and nobody seems to care.

I assessed that if the disease is claiming one million people annually, it is decreasing the world’s population and hindering its growth. What is sad is that Africa is the worst affected. Africa’s active labour force has been reducing. Who knows? Perhaps, that is one reason why Africa is failing to progress as a continent.

 At about 4:00a.m the next morning, there came the shrill crow of a cock in our neighbour’s compound. Ah! What was it with this bird? It crowed at very ungodly hours of the night, disrupting the sleep of many. Owing to this, it had incurred the wrath of many people. No wonder people were looking forward to getting rid of the nuisance.

I wondered why malaria was still causing havoc, in spite of several malaria sensitization messages. I figured out that my question had very simple answers.

Everybody tends to blame the government for the country’s current malaria condition, saying that the government has failed to channel enough resources for malaria eradication.

What a baseless argument! The government, on the contrary has done a lot to see the back of malaria out of this country, ranging from distributing mosquito nets for free, insecticide sprays, and selling malaria drugs at subsidised prices. The problem has more to do with the citizens.

Do we, as Ghanaians, expect the government to come and weed the thickets behind our houses, desilt the choked gutters all over and destroy discarded cans and bottles? Certainly not! The solution to malaria lies in the hands of you and me.

We, as a people, must organise regular clean-up campaigns. During these clean-up campaigns, thickets should be cleared, choked gutters should be desilted, broken bottles and cans should be buried. That is the solution!

They can pump in a lot of money towards malaria eradication but if we the people do not practice these basic preventive measures, the money would just go down the drain.

How can we forget the rural areas, the worst affected! Free medical care to malaria stricken communities in the rural areas is another way of reducing malarial mortality.
If this policy is adhered to, a lot of people will receive treatment in the early stages of the disease, checking the onset of severe malaria.

Prevention is better than cure, so it is prudent to prevent malaria than to spend millions in curing one’s self. If these basic sanitation practices are strictly adhered to, Ghana will be completely malaria-free!!

In a nutshell, malaria has been one of the long standing enemies the African continent has had to battle with. It has claimed the lives of many who could have worked to improve the continents current economic condition.

By all accounts, malaria is no comrade of ours, and it’s about time we called for concerted effort to kick this deadly disease away, leaving Ghana and Africa malaria-free.  The change begins with us!

The writer, Jesse Hornsby-Odoi, aged 14, was among 10 finalists in an essay-writing competition organised by an Accra-based radio station, Citi FM, on the topic “Ghana has discovered oil. If you were the President of Ghana what would you do with the oil revenues?”

- By Jesse Hornsby-Odoi

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