Incidence of Malaria
Leading healthy lives is one of the most important of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Scouting can contribute to this Goal by helping to reduce the incidence of malaria which is responsible for between 30 and 50% of all outpatient visits in many countries in sub Saharan Africa. This region carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden as in 2015, the region was home to 90% of the world’s malaria cases and 92% of malaria deaths.
Malaria is contracted through the bite of a particular type of mosquito called the anopheles mosquito which may be infected with a parasite called a plasmodium which can cause malaria. Through the female species need for blood, if the mosquito carries the parasite then in the process of drawing blood a parasite is injected into the blood stream. It is this parasite which infects the liver cells and thus resulting in malaria.
Unlike infectious diseases which are encountered in temperate climates and for which vaccines are available, no vaccine is currently available to protect against the introduction of the malaria parasite into the blood stream .As symptoms of malaria include very high temperature, vomiting and diarrhoea, young people under age of 5 are particularly vulnerable and can die as a result of contracting this disease unless treatment can be initiated within 12 hours.
As the anopheles mosquitos are active at night, the simplest and most effective long term solution is to sleep under a bed net which is impregnated with an insecticide which can kill the mosquito. Over half the population at greatest risk from malaria in Africa still sleep unprotected by mosquito nets which cost about £2 - 3 each. However such nets must be correctly used and cared for.
Why is malaria so difficult to control?
Malaria affects people primarily living in the tropics as mosquitos will always breed in areas where it is hot and wet. Mosquitos, the carrier of the parasite which results in malaria, have been around for millions of years and are likely to continue their existence for many years to come. Even though there is a global partnership to fight the disease led by the World Health Organisation, no effective vaccine has yet been forth coming.
Reducing places where mosquitos can breed is very effective as their larvae require stagnant pools of water in order to become adults, but it is very difficult to eliminate all pools of water in a wet climate. Use of insecticide treated bed nets is very effective as the female anopheles mosquito is only active at night, but mosquitos are becoming immune to currently used insecticides in many countries so requiring new insecticides to be developed and new nets to be distributed
Friends against malaria [6+]
This video is suitable for younger persons and is told through the eyes of two friends, one from Africa and one from the UK. It explains what malaria is, how it is contracted, who is affected, the symptoms and how it can be prevented. A gentle introduction to the possible outcomes of being bitten.
Peter Capaldi (Dr Who) visits the main hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi [11+]
This video is suitable for older persons and is narrated by Peter Capaldi . It talks about malaria, how it can be prevented and what can happen if someone is bitten and is admitted to hospital and has a sad ending. A more mature approach to the impact of malaria and provides the basis for a discussion about what can be done to save a life.
Interview by Colin Andrews with Howie Maujo (Natioanl Executive Commissioner, Malawi Scouts