In less than two weeks a group of us from my church will be flying to Madagascar to partake in a volunteer trip. I’m growing increasingly excited as all the travel plans come together and we do a final fundraising push. During preparation I have found myself rather amused by the number of suggested medications that are recommended for those visiting ‘wild’ Madagascar. To be honest, as a South African, I feel a bit embarrassed that I have turned into a typical Western traveller who insists on taking every conceivable tablet and toiletry in case I am unable to purchase these items on arrival. To add to this, I have already started taking Vitamin B, bought a mosquito net, ordered malaria tablets and invested in top-of-the-range insect repellant. Now, while I can laugh at my insistence on taking a lifetime’s supply of paracetamol along with me in my ‘mini pharmacy’, Malaria is a very serious matter.
Malaria takes the lives of around 700,000 people a year, with 90% of these deaths occurring in Africa. A child dies every minute from Malaria; so, by the time you have read this post at least two children will likely have died. The wider impact of the disease is devastating too as it keeps people in the cycle of poverty and costs Africa an estimated £8 billion every year. And if this wasn’t all tragic enough, every life lost is needless because Malaria is treatable and preventable.
Today, 20 August, we celebrate Sir Ronald Ross’s discovery, in 1897, that mosquitoes carried Malaria – a breakthrough for which he won the Nobel Prize for Medicine. However, all these years later we are still faced with the challenge of eradicating this dreadful disease that has claimed far too many lives unnecessarily.
As with all the troubles that face our world today, although they seem overwhelming, there is often a solution. Great progress is already being made in the fight against the disease but we need to keep up the momentum. It costs just £5 to provide, deliver and hang a mosquito net which could save someone’s life. In everyday terms, my lunch could save a life. Malaria No More have many different ways for individuals to get involved, or you could do what I propose to do: give up one take-away lunch a month to buy someone a mosquito net. In September I return to work and while I have all the best intentions of taking a packed lunch each day, I know the reality is likely to be quite different. However, once a month I will consciously give up the luxury of a Pret salad or a Gail’s coffee and chelsea bun to save a life. With that in mind, I reckon a slightly soggy, homemade ham, cheese and tomato sandwich will never have tasted better.