Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One Death Every 30 Seconds

By David Shanklin, Senior Program Health Specialist

About 1 million children under the age of 5 die each year from a disease that is entirely preventable. An African child dies every 30 seconds from this same disease; nearly a half billion people become ill because of this disease.

What is this disease? Malaria. The cause? The parasitic disease is transmitted to people through infected mosquitoes.

About 40 percent of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, with the most serious area of impact being sub-Saharan Africa. About 90 percent of deaths due to malaria occur in Africa, mostly among young children.

Education is the foundation for prevention, but many vulnerable families do not know how malaria is transmitted or how to prevent or treat it. With World Malaria Day approaching April 25, it’s staggering to know that less than 25 percent of people who need prevention and treatment services actually receive them.

In countries where CCF works and there is a problem with malaria, our staff works with public health services to mobilize families to use insecticide-treated mosquito nets to sleep under, seek prompt treatment of suspicious cases, encourage pregnant women to take anti-malarial medicines and encourage indoor spraying for mosquitoes.

CCF also works with public health officials to ensure that services are available and that there are trained community health workers nearby with medicines to address the problem. While the process can be slow at times, there are signs of great progress in recent years.

For example, in Zambia from 2002 to 2007, two-thirds of all households in that country have benefitted from indoor spraying, about 70 percent of children under the age of 5 sleep under bed nets and more than 66 percent of pregnant women receive one or more doses to prevent the disease.

As World Malaria Day approaches, what can you do to help? Through CCF, mosquito bed nets and other medicines can be purchased on our Web site through our Gifts of Love & Hope catalog at One mosquito bed net can protect a family for up to four years.

Remember, this disease is preventable. A child does not have to die every 30 seconds from malaria.

For more on malaria, click here to view a video of David Shanklin discussing the disease.

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