Wednesday, August 6, 2008
The dreaded mozzies!!
I recently got diagnosed with malaria after returning from the swampland and being eaten alive every night by mosquitoes! It turns out that it was a fluke, which I found out after I had already taken all of the drugs to treat malaria which was actually worse than the malaria itself (malaria is a commonly misdiagnoses disease in Africa). The whole scary experience and being personally affected got me thinking more about diseases here, because I know that I was very lucky compared to many others in that I have the resources and knowledge to get well. Additionally we are insured with medical evacuation by flying ambulance should one of us really fall seriously ill. Malaria infects more than 500 million people a year and kills more than a million— one person dies about every 30 seconds!! I'm sure that many people die in Sudan due to lack of proper health clinics and infrastructure. When I first felt sick I was lucky to be in Juba where there is more access to healthcare, relatively speaking of course. I went to a local clinic where I was the only Kawaja. That whole clinic experience in and of itself was enough to make me never want to get sick again! There was one doctor and about 50 patients waiting to see the doctor for the few hours that he is there during the night. The doctor works alone in a one room clinic attached to the lab where they do blood tests and give injections. Every patient gets about 2 minutes to talk to the doctor before you are ushered out to give your blood in the equally as crowded lab. The test for malaria is simple and takes about 10 minutes, but you do need lab equipment and some expertise to be able to identify the disease. The treatment is also simple and cheap (although not always effective for all types of malaria). It costs less than $10 in Nairobi, which for me is nothing but to the average Sudanese family is probably a lot. Not to mention the costs that most people have to travel in order to actually reach a clinic to get a test and get the medicines to treat it. Malaria can come on quickly and if you don't catch it early enough people are not able to recover. It made me think about what can be done to stop people from dying of malaria. I guess as in every other health problem, the best cure is prevention. I recently heard of this charity who has a very simple mission- giving everyone a mosquito net... If everyone could sleep under a mosquito net they would be much safer from malaria. The difficulty again is the cost, because although for me $10 for a net is not much. For the average Sudanese-way too much! The charity nothing but nets (http://www.nothingbutnets.net/) is a good place to start on preventing malaria. Then of course there is the fact that the West is focusing more on impotence than research on diseases like malaria. Drugs to treat malaria should be cheaper, malaria tests should be cheaper, and maybe someday it will be eradicated (wishful thinking I know...)