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Friday, April 25, 2008

World Malaria Day

It's World Malaria Day today.

Malaria, according to the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, is responsible for 2 percent of all deaths worldwide, and 3000 children die of it every day.

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  • Great strides have been made in many places in the fight against malaria, a disease that kills a million people, most of them children, every year. That's what World Malaria Day is all about. It draws attention to the many successful ways the war against malaria is being waged, mainly through the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets and other relatively low-tech preventive measures. Unfortunately, children in the Democratic Republic of Congo remain highly vulnerable.

    According to the World Health Organization, less than 1% of DRC children under five years of age sleep under protective nets. This results in most of them suffering six to ten malaria-related fever incidents per year. The disease also accounts for 45% of childhood mortality, which overall runs to 20%. In short, malaria kills nearly one in ten children in the Congo every year.

    In Heart of Diamonds, my novel of the Congo, I explore how continuous armed conflict in the country is responsible for many of these deaths. Medical supplies can’t be distributed when roads, railroads, and airstrips have been destroyed. Treatment can’t be delivered by medical personnel who have been chased from their clinics and hospitals. People driven from their homes, plagued by malnutrition, inadequate shelter, and lack of sanitary facilities are weak and less capable of warding off disease. War creates a breeding ground for death by malaria just as surely as swamps full of stagnant water breed anopheles mosquitoes.

    Although the intensity of conflict has decreased since the truce of 2003 and democratic elections of 2006, millions of displaced persons still struggle to survive and hot spots remain in the eastern and western provinces. Collapsed infrastructure has severely weakened the health system in the DRC, and the strengthening process is a slow one.

    The DRC, unfortunately, has little to celebrate this World Malaria Day.

    By Blogger Dave Donelson, at 11:39 am  

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