I have been told enough harrowing personal stories and have read enough reports to understand contracting malaria isn’t a cakewalk. And for children (especially those under the age of five) and expectant mothers malaria can be deadly. Fortunately with rapid diagnosis and malaria treatments children as well as adults can experience speedy recoveries from a disease that is both debilitating and potentially fatal.
While in Zambia last month I visited the Chongwe District Hospital in Lusaka province with Malaria No More to see how robust malaria control efforts funded by the Zambian government, USAID, the Global Fund and other NGOs and private foundations have helped drastically reduced the number of child deaths in the country. Zambia has effectively reduced the number of malaria deaths to 8000 annually through prevention measures including mass distributions of mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying, fogging, and spraying of mosquito-infected areas like bogs and dambos (shallow wetlands). The annual deaths have also been reduced because of the mass test and treatment programs that are being administered by frontline health workers around the country. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these deaths are children under the age of five because their immune systems cannot fight off the disease without the help of a positive diagnosis and follow-up medications.
In Zambia 50% of children are admitted to hospitals due to malaria according to UNICEF. You must also understand that being admitted to a hospital means that frontline health care didn’t work and that hospital care is necessary. In Zambia as well as in most developing countries, most healthcare is done on the local level. Most severe cases are referred to hospitals as was the case of these three children I met in the Chongwe District Hospital located about an hour outside of Lusaka.
While malaria is wholly preventable and treatable some children still struggle getting better when they contract the infectious disease. This little boy was extremely sick, but was steadily getting better. I took his picture as he slept with the permission of his mother who was sitting lovingly at his side.
This little boy played with his mother’s hands and reached to breastfeed as he laid beside her. He had one of the sweetest faces I’ve ever seen and was quickly on the mend from his bout of malaria.
This little boy, who was snuggled with his mother, was also feeling better than before, but was quite lethargic. There are stages children have to go through to get better. Doctors had a positive prognosis for his eventual improvement.
By 2015, Zambia has a goal of having 100% of malaria cases are diagnosed and treated with Coartem on the community and health post level. While that goal hasn’t been achieved yet, Zambia with the expertise of Path’s MACEPA program and countrywide campaigns such as Power of One is helping Zambia steadily stand behind its commitment.