Exposing young people to malaria causes, prevention
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Malaria is one of the most widespread infectious diseases of our time, taking the lives of almost one million people a year, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa and under the age of 5. It is reported to be the fifth leading cause of death worldwide and almost half the world’s population (3.3 billion) is at risk. Children and pregnant women are among the most vulnerable.
The disease is not only a major killer in Africa but also a primary cause of poverty. It has been estimated to cost Africa more than US$ 12 billion every year in lost GDP. Malaria traps people in poverty and undermines the development of some of the poorest countries in the world. Though the majority of the cases and deaths (85%) from malaria are found in sub-Saharan Africa, malaria is also endemic in Asia and Latin America.
Its widespread rapid killing has caused a wave of panic and outright concern, attracting efforts for its elimination through many ways, including sensitising communities on environmental and sleeping under treated mosquito bed nets which are some of the most effective and fast ways to prevent malaria.
Concerned organizations and groups have come to stand up to fight this deadly disease in order to put a halt to the furtherance its killings. Among these groups is the Mandinaba youth and children association, which, over the weekend conducted training for its members on malaria.
These members are expected to conduct home-to-home outreach sensitizations on malaria. The representative of the Health Promotion and Development Organization (HePDO) for Kombo East and Foni Bintang districts Jerreh Manneh conducted the training. HePDO is a registered organization based in Brikama. Its main intervention area is health and malaria has toped its agenda over the years with support from Global Fund as it main partner.
Manneh told the youth during the training that malaria is caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Plasmodium – single-celled organisms that cannot survive outside of their host(s). He said Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for the majority of malaria deaths globally and is the most prevalent species in sub-Saharan Africa. The remaining species are not typically as life threatening as Plasmodium falciparum.
Plasmodium vivax is the second most significant species and is prevalent in Southeast Asia and Latin America but this and Plasmodium ovale have the added complication of a dormant liver stage, which can be reactivated in the absence of a mosquito bite, leading to clinical symptoms.
Jerreh said as the malaria parasites enter the blood stream, they attack the red blood cells and destruction of these essential cells leads to fever and flu-like symptoms, such as chills, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. These initial symptoms, he said are non-specific; meaning they are self-reported symptoms that do not indicate a specific disease process.
Manneh told the young people of Mandinaba that malaria is considered uncomplicated when symptoms are present but there are no clinical or laboratory signs to indicate severity or vital organ dysfunction. The symptoms of uncomplicated malaria are non-specific and include fever. This, he said can be caused by all strains of Plasmodium.
Infection with Plasmodium falciparum, if not promptly treated can quickly progress to severe malaria, whose main symptoms, according to Manneh include coma, severe breathing difficulties, low blood sugar, and low blood haemoglobin (severe anaemia).
It is diagnosed on the basis of the presence of Plasmodium falciparum parasites and one of the above symptoms with no other obvious cause. He said children are particularly vulnerable since they have little or no immunity to the parasite. If untreated, he pointed out, severe malaria could lead to death.
Malaria is a deadly disease that needs community, national and global attention. Some of the effective and fast ways to prevent it is through behavioural change towards the environment. Manneh called on participants to prevent themselves and their families from being infected by malaria, that they must keep their environment clean and always sleep under treated mosquito bed nets.
The chairman of the Mandinaba Youth and Children association, Alhagie Jassey commended Manneh for finding time to train them on malaria. This, he said will surely help them in their next target of conducting house to house outreach sensitization on malaria within Mandinaba village. He called on other institutions to always endeavour to help his association in its cause to eliminate malaria. The association, he said aims to strengthen its sensitization campaign in Kombo East and the country in general.
Author: Amadou Jallow