I am learning more and more about malaria now that I am personally experiencing it for the second time, this time here in Africa. It is a beyond challenging and humbling disease.
The symptoms of the disease resemble the flu - fever, tiredness, vomiting and diarrhea at the same time, body aches and headaches - only far beyond the flu. If not properly treated, the parasites can remain dormant and result in a re-occurrence months later. This explains why so many people in Africa suffer from malaria again and again and again.
There is no vaccine for malaria, though there have been ongoing efforts for some time. And even if there was a vaccine, I wonder how many here in Africa would be able to access.
In 2016 there were estimated to be 216 million cases of malaria globally with up to three-quarters of a million deaths. Approximately 90% of the cases and deaths occurred here in Africa; beyond awful. The disease is commonly associated with poverty and has a major negative effect on economic development. Poverty and malaria go hand in hand.
The graphs show that malaria clusters around the equator, with no cases in the gray sections of the globe. So I wonder, if we have figured out how to eliminate malaria in these vast regions, why haven't we figured out how to eliminate it everywhere??
When I returned to Africa in January, namesake Deborah's sister Florence was suffering from malaria, but was able to come to her 10th birthday party for swimming and pizza. Last month son Moses called me from his special SAT preparation class to say he was really feeling awful and could he please go to Benson Hospital; diagnosis malaria. I am amazed how they or anyone here functions when they have this disease. I could feel symptoms Friday night when severe diarrhea started; then repeated Saturday morning. Still I thought perhaps I was suffering from food poisoning. By Sunday morning there was no question. I was sick like I remembered being in 2016; beyond awful. I started the prescribed medicine which I have with me always and prayed it would pass. By Monday I was calling my dear friend Dr. Angela Benson who immediately brought 4-hours of IV. When that was not enough, stronger medicine came Tuesday. Now five days into this, I am cautiously out of bed, at home with lots of love and support, and HOPE has returned that back to normal is not far away.
And I am thinking of all those millions who do not have access to the support I have here. Heartbreaking. I don't know how, but I will do something to change this malaria reality...
With special love and prayers for all who suffer...