Ice Cubes to Cure Malaria!

Published on 28th March 2006

A sharp increase in malaria outbreaks in Kericho and throughout the East African highland may be a by product of global warming, suggests Dr. Pascual, a researcher at the University of Michigan in US. Soon freezers and ice cubes will be the next line of prevention and treatment.

The malaria eradication programmes that were launched in 1955 by the 8th World Health Assembly were initiated in all countries affected by malaria in the America and Europe and in majority of countries of Asia and Oceania. In Africa, only pilot projects were attempted. Within fifteen years malaria had been eliminated from the developed world contributing to economic development and general improvement in health.

As mentioned above, Africa up to date is still a victim of the deadly disease [malaria].The cost in terms of lives lost and affected is staggering. There are about 300--500 million episodes of malaria illness globally each year resulting in a million deaths. Over 90 per cent of these deaths occur in Africa among children. The consequences of such high rates of malaria go far beyond health. They affect the economic circumstances of communities and in turn the development prospects of the countries in which malaria is rife.

Some forms of interventions against malaria are available yet the burden persists largely because most people at risk are not only aware of the interventions but also are unable to afford treatment costs .Illiteracy, lack of information and lack of access to effective intervention are currently restricting the success of many anti malaria programmes among the poor.

It is in response to such observations that the Rural Youth Empowerment League [RUYEL], a community based organization in Western Kenya is partnering with the Free Africa Foundation (FAF) project to run a project that will result in malaria free Africa.

FAF project has come into Africa with a three phase approach of fighting malaria by offering insecticide treated mosquito bed nets, sprays and anti malarial drugs to selected villages. RUYEL is on the front line busy trying to make the community to get access to information, which will change their attitude towards issues ultimately making them productive and economically empowered.

The end result in RUYEL's struggle can only be achieved in a healthy community. This, the youths plan to achieve by implementing a community based health initiative that will enable 'home to be the first hospital'. If supported by the government through the ministry of health, such shall be the arm of a health system that can directly comfort the afflicted. It shall be the life support system of people who are poor, isolated and living in rural areas.

The pilot project targeting 900 people among them expectant mothers and children under the age of five started in Lukaka village and its environs. RUYEL, in conjunction with the FAF project intend to build on the already existing organizations of the community and on the public, informal and private health sectors to serve the direct interest of those most affected.

We in RUYEL shall not only pass the resources from the FAF project to the affected but also through our four pillars of information, attitude change, productivity and economic empowerment, we aim at generating a dynamic societal movement among those at risk of malaria and generally the rural population. In communities where malaria is endemic, the disease is part of the people’s lives. It recurs many times, leading to acute discomfort, ill health, impoverishment or even death. We are encouraging the community to put up organized structures against malaria that will include empowering the most affected so that they can take care of themselves. By raising awareness of the disease first and then its cause, the community will incorporate preventive measures into the local structures.

Knowledge allows communities to be aware of the presence of malaria, access early causing them to access treatment in good time, taking care hence reducing suffering. Empowerment leads to raising responsibility and cooperation. Many societal movements have shown that self empowered communities can be powerful instruments of change. They can influence the attitude and behavior of people and their leaders, motivate the government and even inspire international action.

Upon the first visit to Elukaka village by Mr. Koshin Mohammed, FAF official, the community got more challenged in discovering that malaria in other countries has been called 'a thing of the past.' The village committee members referred to Mr. Mohammed's visit as an eye opener. The youth on the other hand unanimously accepted to work hand in hand with the FAF towards realizing a malaria free zone.

Initiating a community development programme in a sick community is like throwing seeds on the road where birds will eventually eat them. As the community members writhe in pain on their sick beds and spend many hours nursing the sick, it will call for the community to be wary of the scavengers who are always out to ensure that such a project is past tense and therefore no development. Meanwhile, as the debate on global warming continues, African countries should be allowed to access that which eradicated Malaria in the West.

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