Frontline Stories

1 Child Dies Every 60 seconds Because of Malaria


Of the estimated 207 million people who had malaria in 2012, nearly 630,000 of them died — about 482,000 were under age 5.

This year’s World Malaria Day (25 April, 2014) will renew a commitment to fighting the preventable disease with the theme "Invest in the future: Defeat malaria." Despite recent progress, about half the world's population still lives in malaria risk areas, and malaria remains a leading cause of death amongst young children. 1 child dies every 60 seconds because of malaria.

Malaria is like War

Marita is not your average 10-year-old. In a world where children typically want so much, she wants only two things - a best friend and a mosquito net.

Why mosquito net? Marita is terrified of the tiny, sinister creatures that spread malaria, the disease that killed her best friend, Marta, last year. Marita cared for her sick friend, cradling her head as it burned with fever, lifting cup after cup of cool water to Marta’s lips. But malaria won, and now Marita is alone.

Marta’s father, Manuel, 43, lost four children - three to malaria. Aissa died on the back of Manuel’s bicycle as he pedaled madly to get her to the hospital in 2007. Another daughter, Rebeca, lived for one year and five months; she died in 2009.

And then he lost Marta. "She was a very loveable person," he says. "In our African families, the girls, although small, they are like mothers. They are so caring." Marta was her parents’ helpmate. She fetched firewood and water and cared for her younger siblings.

Marta was bitten in January 2011, during the high season for malaria when it is hot and wet in Mozambique. Water stands in pools and puddles. The mosquitoes breed and bite. The female anopheles mosquito spreads the disease. If a family has no mosquito net, anyone can be her victim.

Malaria is a disease of poverty. An insecticide-treated net can prevent death, but even the few dollars a mosquito net costs can be largely out of reach in Mozambique. Farmers like Manuel earn far less than that.

"Malaria is like war," he says. "But it’s a big war. It’s not a small war. In a war, you can negotiate. But with malaria, you cannot. With war, maybe there is a place of peace. But with malaria, you cannot find a peaceful place."

Marta received a mosquito net too late. When death came, her parents followed tradition and buried her with all her earthly possessions, including the net. They wrapped their once bright, vibrant daughter in the blue gossamer threads and laid her in the earth.

Marita did not go to Marta’s funeral. But she still goes to visit her friend’s family. "We are happy she comes," says Manuel. "We see that our daughter lives in her."

Protecting Vulnerable Children

 

One of the most effective ways to tackle malaria is insecticide-treated bed nets. World Vision’s initiative ensures millions of children and their families have access to these nets.

Because World Vision already has a long-term presence in many affected communities through ongoing development work, staff members have earned the community’s confidence and are able to effectively mount regular checks and training sessions to ensure nets are properly used.

More than 2 million nets have been distributed in malaria-stricken Zambia, Mozambique, Kenya and Mali. Millions more are planned for these and other African nations. When nets are used correctly, as they are in Kenya’s Loima district, malaria cases decline by 73 percent in the first months of net use.

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