At our Fatmata Maternity Center in Sierra Leone, malaria accounts for more than a third of all cases for visits among the child and adult population, that’s more than 2,500 cases in the last few years. In our attempt to fight this wide spread disease, we’ve been able to clear mosquito breeding grounds, put spiritual medicine practices to rest and encourage early detection and treatment. In our latest venture, we’ve launched the first ever public bathrooms in six communities surrounding our center. We feel that good hygiene and waste sanitation will amplify our fight, but it doesn’t end here.
This year marks the ten year anniversary since the United States joined the World Health Organization (WHO) in designating April 25th as World Malaria Day. The inaugural World Malaria Day in 2007 marked a renewed effort by WHO and the African governments in the countries worst affected, to ramp up prevention efforts and champion a goal long thought impossible in the fight against malaria eradication. Bolstered by funding and research and development from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation the endemic African countries began significantly scaling up their previous prevention efforts and made access to insecticide treated nets a priority. With a cohesive policy finally in place and the backing of global organizations and governments the treatment and prevention of malaria was finally making strides after decades of stagnation.
The theme for this year’s World Malaria Day is prevention. An estimated 663 million cases of malaria have been prevented in sub-Saharan Africa from 2001 to 2015. In the period from 2010 to 2015 the incidences of malaria in Africa fell by 21% and deaths resulting from malaria fell by 31%. Two key factors in the progress made to fight malaria in Africa are the distribution of insecticide treated mosquito nets and indoor spraying with residual insecticides. In 2015, however, 43% of those at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa did not have access to either of these preventative tools. The successes of initiatives like World Malaria Day are clear, although on larger scale there is still major progress to be made. In 2015, there were 212 million malaria cases and an astounding 429,000 deaths worldwide. 191 million cases and 394,000 deaths took place in Africa. 292,000 of those deaths were of children under five.
Thaakat made malaria prevention and access to treatment a priority since the inception of our maternity center in village of Blama Perri in 2014. We launched our ongoing Stop the Bug program at our project site to implement preventative measures and monitor the prevalence of malaria in the area as well as the effectiveness of our efforts. The program incorporates educating villagers on hygiene and the importance of mosquito nets and spraying of mosquito breeding grounds. Twice a year, Thaakat sends out 40 trained volunteers to each of the six communities surrounding our health center to carry out the program. The healthcare volunteers go door to door to test and educate the populace. Our Stop the Bug program is Thaakat’s contribution to the ideals and goals extolled by World Malaria Day.
Through our continued efforts and your continued support we hope to play our part in achieving what was long thought an impossibility, the eradication of malaria.