More than a mosquito: Elizabeth’s story
Like many mothers, Elizabeth Apem clearly remembers the last time she was awakened by her child, sick in the middle of the night.
“My daughter woke up from sleep complaining of a severe headache and joint pains. I checked on her and she was shivering in bed. She had a high fever.”
For most of us, our next response would be to rush to the emergency room. But Elizabeth lives in rural Kenya, far from care with no car or means of transportation. So 13-year-old Silale had to wait until morning to go to a local clinic.
“We could not sleep anymore,” Elizabeth said. “My daughter struggled the rest of the night. I had nothing I could give her to relieve the pain. I kept watching over her until dawn.”
When they finally could get help, the diagnosis they received was something most of us can’t even imagine – malaria.
Malaria can be deadly. In fact, every 60 seconds a family in Africa loses a child to malaria.
Elizabeth’s daughter Silale was one of those lives. After struggling in the hospital for days, she succumbed to the disease – the second of Elizabeth’s six children to die from this diseases spread by a mosquito bite.
Perhaps the toughest part of this whole story, our World Vision staff heard this from Elizabeth as they were passing out the very thing that could have helped – a simple bed net. We were just a few months too late for Silale.
“If I had a net, my children would have been alive today. I am happy to get a net at last,” Elizabeth said.
The net is perhaps the most surprising part of all. A disease that is a leading killer of children in many countries in Africa can be stopped with a piece of netting treated with insecticide; it costs less than $7 and lasts for years. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes typically bite at night, so if a person sleeps under one of these treated nets, they are protected from these mosquitoes while they sleep. If you combine that with education for the community on how the disease is spread and ways to prevent malaria including using nets properly, indoor spraying, and clearing pools of standing water where mosquitoes breed. With all of these prevention methods, as well as treatment options, we can see the number of malaria cases cut by more than half.
Now, if you visit Elizabeth’s home at night, you’ll find her children sleeping safely under the nets. She tells our team no one has gotten sick from malaria since she started using the nets, and she can rest peacefully at night knowing her family is protected.
But we know there are so many other mothers across Africa who don’t have that same peace. Tomorrow, on World Malaria Day (April 25th) World Vision and other non-profits are trying to scale up our efforts to fight this deadly, but preventable disease. By the end of 2015, we hope to protect 3.3 million additional people from malaria by distributing 1.6 million bed nets and providing training on how to use them. It’s part of a big push we’re calling the “For Every Child” campaign. The campaign will focus on raising $500 million by the end of 2015 to help 10 million more children through improving access to maternal and child health, clean water and child protection.
Stories like that of Elizabeth and Silale remind us that the fight against malaria truly is a race against the clock. With the help of mothers, organizations who care, and the power of a bed net, we know it’s a fight we can win.
For information about how you can get involved with the “For Every Child” campaign, find us at www.worldvision.org/foreverychild, Facebook and Twitter.
Kenneth Kibet/World Vision -Elizabeth Apem, of Kenya, lost two daughters to malaria
Jon Warren/World Vision - Children in Mozambique enjoy the safety of insecticide-treated bed nets to guard against malaria
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