The average African child has heard of malaria countless times. It probably comes to mind when a friend in school runs a temperature, a sibling vomits or when a relative complains of stomach pain.
For *Fred, he did not consider malaria as a life threatening disease. It is only when his primary six teacher told him that their relative died of malaria that he saw the gravity of the disease.
He didn’t understand why someone would die of malaria because back at home, mum had a drawer full of drugs that was given to everyone every year’s quarter as treatment for malaria. At the time, Malaria never meant anything more than vomiting and fever.
Years ago, grandma had warned him to stop taking oil, papaya, orange, tomatoes and basically every other fruit that even had a splash of orange, yellow or red colors as they caused Malaria. At home, he would have sleepless nights due to the buzzing of mosquitoes and the painful stings they’d give.
When He got into Secondary school, the Nigerian Government gave out mosquito nets to all students in Federal Unity Colleges as part of their programs to free the country from the bondage of Malaria. After using the net, he noticed that he could sleep peacefully most nights without the buzzing or biting of the mosquitoes. His friend would cover himself with his mosquito net like a blanket. He got a high fever a few days later and was diagnosed with Malaria.
Later on, they had a class on Malaria. They learnt that its method of transmission is through a mosquito called the female Anopheles mosquito. They were also taught that mosquitoes have various species such as Anopheles, Aedes and Culex. Their teacher added that the causative agent, the plasmodium, has different species too; falciparum, vivax, malariae and knowlesi. The teacher had also mentioned passively that the name Malaria was adopted from Latin, meaning ‘bad air’.
On his return home for the Christmas holidays, he couldn’t help but notice that all the windows and doors in the house had mesh on them. In the house, all beds had nets dangling from the ceiling and were all well tucked in. The next morning, he noticed that the compound looked different and that the place where the weeds had grown wild looked almost as flat as the grass he played on in school.
Even the little body of water that was usually left stagnant days after heavy rains was nowhere in sight. Mum said that she had made dad do the clearing after they had been given a talk in church on Malaria prevention. They had been taught that stagnant water and long grass are breeding grounds for mosquito larvae.
That evening as he went to buy groundnuts for his mum, he noticed that some women had used the mosquito net as fences for their farms. When he asked his mum about this. She told him that the nets were being used improperly. She then said that Malaria could be defeated by using the mosquito nets in houses and not in farms and carefully discarding empty containers. She also insisted on the importance of the community adhering to the Saturday morning cleanup of bushes and surroundings.
Fred understood Malaria and worked to have his community educated on how Malaria is transmitted and how it can be treated. He now wishes for a world free of Malaria and always sleeps under his mosquito net.
(*: not the real name).
By Archibong, Abasi-Ifreke Aniefiok (400 level)
University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, Uyo.