Monday, 8 April 2013

Malaria is real

Hardcore hospital - Wojtek and me
[Click here to see the full album]

Well, it's official - I got malaria. My guess is when I stayed at Jalou's place in Conakry [link], because it was exactly ten days after this that I got sick (which is the estimated time of being infected to when symptoms first occur).
I vomited, I sweated, I had diarrhoea, I sweated, I was cold, I had the worst headache of my entire life, and I sweated some more. Oh, and I slept through most of it - completely unable to muster enough energy to think straight, never mind move.

Seka in the testing laboratory

Thankfully, I was still with my travel friend Wojtek, so he made all the decisions for me. The hospital I went to, where I was given IV drips and medication, probably gave me more diseases than I first arrived with.

And that's all I can describe. I was sleeping the rest of the time.

The "clean" needle cabinet
When I got better after a few days (malaria treatment is effective almost immediately unless there are complications), I started to realise the luck I had compared to the reality for Africa's poorest. First off, I had money for hospital treatment. For most people here, money just for medication bought from a pharmacy is sometimes difficult to come by. Treatment is not free anywhere in Guinea. Secondly, I had somewhere safe and clean to sleep whilst I was ill; Wojtek and I went to a hotel for once on our trip. This makes a whole lot of difference. Most Africans are faced with sleeping in the same conditions where they contracted the malaria; in their homes (or slums) where there is dirt and stagnant water everywhere. Stagnant water is where mosquitoes breed. If somebody is sick and weak with malaria, how can they get better if there are many more chances to get infected again and again?

On Room Island [link], the French expat hotel owner's child contracted malaria and three days later she was dead. She was just three years old. Children are just too weak to deal with the disease.

Getting malaria myself forced me to learn the harsh truths behind this disease. According to the World Health Organisation, in 2010 alone, malaria caused an estimation of between 660,000 and 1.2 million deaths. So why is it one of the biggest killers in the world? Considering the fact that there is both prevention (using mosquito nets, repellent, or medication) and a cure, this question is answered very easily: poverty. According to different sources, around 90% of these deaths (in 2010) occurred in Africa.

With both cheap prevention and a cure available, deaths from malaria are avoidable with funding put in the right direction. It's very simple. Doesn't it make you wonder why it's not happened already?

[Click here to see the full album]

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