Archive for the 'Malaria' Category

What it’s like to have malaria

This month, aid groups and non-governmental organizations such as the Peace Corps, USAID and Malaria No More asked their volunteers and employees to blog about malaria in observance of World Malaria Day. Many chose to write about their own personal experiences being infected with malaria, or watching someone else who was.  Their posts provide a fascinating — and sometimes horrific — look at the disease that kills about 600,000 people each year, most of them young children in Africa. Below are some excerpts from malaria-related blogs posted on the Internet this week.

She told me that (four-year-old Tinho) was in the hospital with malaria and that she was afraid he wasn’t going to make it. The next week was filled with anxiety-laden nights worrying whether he was going to pull through. My days were spent going through the motions, but always with a knot in my stomach fearing that I would return home to bad news. But then one evening I was sitting on my porch reading and his mother walked up carrying Tinho. He had just left the hospital and was thin and frail. He looked so much smaller than I remembered him- but he was alive!

Jordan Rief, Peace Corps volunteer, “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday

In my experience malaria starts with a headache which rapidly gets worse. Then as your fever goes up you start to be aware of your bones in a way that you normally do not experience. They ache. You alternate from freezing cold to hot as your body shakes. Even with treatment it can take weeks for you to start getting your energy back.

— Family of Cory, Kris, Eli and Anna, Global Partners Missionaries, “Did you think about malaria today?

When I remember (my daughter) Melody, I shed tears of bitterness wondering where we failed her. I soliloquize, imagining I should have ignored the ignorant doctor and crushed bitter chloroquin and administered it. But she is long gone and we are focusing on the disease today.

— Michael Arunga, World Vision, “Remembering Melody on World Malaria Day

I spent two years learning Wolof, getting to know the 300 people who chose to share their village with me, and found out more and more about malaria and the role it plays in the lives of the Senegalese people.

Together, the community taught me what it was, what the members valued, what they wanted from their lives and from each other. They taught me how they saw malaria, what they thought of this threat to their lives, what they knew to do when they got sick. They helped me understand why they couldn’t pay the $4 to buy a mosquito net, even though they knew that sleeping underneath one every night would protect them from being bitten by the mosquitos that spread malaria. They talked about being too scared to go to the health post to seek treatment for a suspected case of malaria when their infant sons and daughters became ill, even though they knew the disease was so dangerous. They surprised me with their knowledge and resources, and saddened me with their matter-of-fact statements about their perceptions of the limitations on their lives.

— Jessie Seiler, Peace Corps volunteer, “Fighting Malaria, One RDT at A Time

AFRICOM fights back against Malaria

DEBAKA DEBOBESA, Ethiopia — U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Melissa McGaughey, Civil Affairs Team 4905 team sergeant, hands an insecticide-treated net to an Ethiopian man in Debaka Debobesa, Ethiopia, March 15, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Andrew Caya)

It’s not all bad news when it comes to malaria.

The World Health Organization reported today – World Malaria Day — that childhood mortality rates from malaria have dropped significantly in some areas, including a 50 percent decrease in Rwanda and 40 percent decline in Senegal.

Morocco was recently declared malaria-free by WHO, and the organization predicts malaria deaths worldwide could drop by 3 million in the next five years.

A concerted effort by worldwide governments, international donors and groups such as WHO, the International Federation of the Red Cross and USAID has brought more education, treatment and prevention to programs to the countries hardest hit by the disease. International funding for malaria reached $2 billion last year.

AFRICOM’s medical command has made malaria prevention and awareness one of its top priorities. The command surgeon’s office, the AFRICOM Medical Division, and the Humanitarian Health and Assistance Branch all support programs to prevent malaria in Africa. Those programs focus on outreach, information sharing and training opportunities with our African partners.

For example:

– In March, Civil Affairs Team (CAT) 4905, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, distributed 18,000 packs of insecticide-treated bed nets, rope and nails to Ethiopians.

– In July, the annual MEDFLAG exercise in Ghana featured malaria as part of the medical training between U.S. personnel and their Ghanian counterparts.

–   The World Malaria Day Symposium 2011 brought military medical corps officers and subject matter experts to AFRICOM headquarters in Germany for a three-day conference to discuss malaria prevention and how the disease affects the military, security and stability in African nations. Attendees included representatives from Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.

–   A two-week course in Tanzania in January 2010 focused on malaria diagnosis. The course was a partnership among Tanzania, Kenya and the United States.

Click here to read more about AFRICOM’s anti-malaria efforts. Also be sure to watch for updates this week about AFRICOM and malaria on our home page at,  on Facebook and on Twitter.

Africa Snapshot: Nigeria

Nigeria has the largest population of any country in the U.S. Africa Command Area of Responsibility, and it’s one of the countries most affected by malaria. More than 300,000 Nigerians — mostly children — die every year from the mosquito-borne disease, accounting for about one third of malaria deaths worldwide. At least half of Nigeria’s population will experience an attack of malaria each year. The World Bank, USAID and other international organizations have targeted Nigeria in their efforts to distribute mosquito nets to the hardest hit countries. As a result, Nigeria was the first country to distribute mosquito nets to its population free of charge. Nigeria is also challenged by a high rate of HIV/AIDS infections combined with a lack of doctors and hospital beds. Life expectancy is 52 years, compared with 78.49 in the U.S.

History: Written history in Nigeria goes back to 1000 AD. The country was a hub for the international slave trade, and later became a British territory. Independence was claimed in 1960, followed by civil war. A series of coups and political instability lasted for years, until the transition to a civilian government was made in 1999. The country is experiencing its longest-ever period of civilian rule.

Population: With more than 170 million people, Nigeria is the seventh largest country in the world.

Languages: English is the official language. More than 500 indigenous languages are spoken around the country.

Religion: Nigeria is 50 percent Muslim and 40 percent Christian. Ten percent of the population practices indigenous beliefs.

Economy: Nigeria is rich in oil, but its economy remains largely agricultural-based.

Security issues: Terrorist attacks by the violent extremist organization Boko Haram are on the rise.

U.S. partnerships: The annual exercise Obangame Express is conducted by U.S. Naval Forces Africa to improve maritime security. AFRICOM also partners with Nigeria on efforts to counter improvised explosive devices and facilitate interaction with civilians and the military in northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram supporters are concentrated.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations recently held a hearing on security, governance and trade in Nigeria. Click here to watch the testimony or read transcripts.

Sources: CIA Fact Book/Nigeria, The World Bank , U.S. State Department, International Federation of the Red CrossU.S. Africa Command 2012 Posture Statement

Coming this week: World Malaria Day

DEBAKA DEBOBESA, Ethiopia - U.S. Army Corporal Benjamin Whiddon, Civil Affairs Team 4905 medic, hands an insecticide-treated net to an Ethiopian woman in Debaka Debobesa, Ethiopia, March 15, 2012. As part of an effort to deter a seasonal spike of malaria in the region, CAT 4905 delivered 18,000 packs of insecticide-treated bed nets, rope and nails to Ethiopians in Samaro and Debaka Debobesa, March 15 and 16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Andrew Caya)

Somewhere in the world, a child dies every minute from malaria, according to the World Health Organization.

Each year, April 25 marks World Malaria Day. Starting in 2007, the World Health Assembly has set aside an annual day to highlight the international efforts to prevent and limit the damage of malaria.

U.S. Africa Command will be marking the occasion with an educational exhibit outside Kelley Theater on Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

While those in America find mosquitoes merely annoying summer pests, mosquito-borne malaria remains a serious issue in many parts of the world. About half of the world’s population lives where there is a risk of malaria. No one knows exactly how many people contract malaria every year, but the estimate for 2010 was 216 million cases. About 665,000 people died in 2010, according to WHO.

The culprit behind malaria is Plasmodium, a parasite that enters the human body through a bite from an infected mosquito. From there, the parasite can multiply in the liver, infect red blood cells, and eventually lead to the blood supply being cut off to critical organs. Symptoms such as fever, headache, chills, and vomiting can usually appear about a week or two after the bite. If left untreated, malaria can lead to death.

In Africa, some local adults have developed immunity to malaria. Children, foreigners, and other high-risk individuals remain in potential danger from malaria-borne mosquitoes.

The U.S. Africa Command, with some 2,000 people and many more component members, regularly sends U.S. representatives down to Africa for exercises, operations, and humanitarian assistance. Those traveling to Africa from the AFRICOM headquarters in Germany must go through certain precautions to protect against malaria.

AFRICOM also hosts malaria outreach programs to help educate Africans about the benefits of mosquito nets, which can help reduce the number of malaria cases significantly. For example, the Civil Affairs Team (CAT) 4905, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, distributed 18,000 packs of insecticide-treated bed nets, rope and nails to Ethiopians in March  2012.

Look for more on malaria all week from our website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Source: WHO Fact Sheet on Malaria

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