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Malaria in Africa: Nana’s Story

The sun was at its zenith on that Thursday I visited. Nana had been at the center since the morning. After the holistic child development program, it was now lunchtime. Many children who were not part of the development center gathered round the church’s courtyard, staring at the registered children enjoying their meals.

Every Thursday there are two groups of children that meet at the development center: registered children and those waiting to be registered. It was such a privilege for Nana to be registered.

Malaria in Africa

After lunch, Tou-Wend-Sida, the team leader, took Nana home. The boy’s left foot was wounded and he could not walk home from the student center. When the team leader and Nana reached home, the boy’s father was sitting in the shadow of one of the two huts that compose the household.

He was resting after working the whole morning to put harvest in a safe place in their loft made of high grass. A smile of complete satisfaction could be seen on his face. The rainy season had been satisfactory, and the harvest was better than in the previous year.

“Hopefully, there is going to be enough food this year after a time of severe food crisis that turned so many lives into hell on earth,” the boy’s father seemed to say to himself, while staring at the loft.

The boy’s mother and sisters were nearby, making brooms out of grass plucked in the field that they will use to sweep the courtyard and the huts.

Some months ago, Nana’s family was going through hard times. Nana was sick from malaria. The family might not have not noticed that the child was sick except for a fortunate accident. Nana was riding a bicycle with his older brother when his left foot got trapped in the rear wheel’s spokes.

The boy’s left foot was wounded, and when they took him to dispensary, nurses noticed that he had high temperature. After screening they found that Nana was suffering from malaria. It was such bad news.

It was harvest time, and Nana’s father was totally short of money and could not pay for any treatment. “The Compassion development center paid for all medical fees, fortunately. Otherwise, I would have needed to borrow some money from a friend of mine to treat my child,” Nana’s father says.

Before the malaria intervention of Compassion provided children of the development center with mosquito nets in September 2008, 55 cases of malaria were reported in the prior six months when the very first child of the student center was registered.

In April 2008, when Nana fell sick from malaria, for many days he could not go to school or go to the student center.

Malaria intervention was not implemented and the child’s parents could not take him to dispensary; they were powerless and did not even find someone in the neighborhood who could lend them some money to take care of Nana.

So they were obliged to treat the child indigenously, giving him concoctions to drink. Praise God, Nana recovered after days of suffering.

When in September 2008 the student center workers informed Nana’s parents and all the registered children’s parents that their children were going to receive mosquito nets, it was such a relief to at last get one of the most reliable prevention methods of malaria.

The mosquito net that Nana received was the very first net of the family and is the only one that they have to this day.

Before the mosquito net distribution, there were many children falling sick from malaria – so much so that the center was spending more money than was allocated to health.

“With mosquito nets and sensitization campaigns that we launched, we now have less and less registered children suffering from malaria,” a development center team leader says.

Kevin, the Health Specialist of Compassion Burkina Faso, considers malaria a tsunami, referring to the fact that malaria is the leading cause of consultation and hospitalization, and most unfortunately of the deaths of thousands of children under 5 in the country.

In a family that is short of money, to be a child and fall sick from severe malaria in Burkina Faso is as desperate as going through the valley of the shadow of death. Thanks to malaria intervention, Nana was treated and recovered from malaria. Now he sleeps under a mosquito net, happy to be out of the reach of mosquitoes.

Malaria affects nearly 60 percent of the world’s population, and most people who suffer and/or die from malaria are in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2007, the Burkina Faso health care facilities recorded  5,438,787 cases of malaria, according to the National Program for Malaria Prevention (PNLP). In a country of 15,265,000 people, that’s over a third of the population.

Among those who got malaria, 11,955 died, a mortality rate of 2.014 percent. Among children from birth to age 5, there were 2,613,514 cases of malaria, and on average, each child in this age group was seen by a doctor or health care deliverer at least once for malaria.

The total number of children registered in child development centers in Burkina Faso who suffered or are still suffering from malaria is 747 for the last quarter of fiscal year 2008 (April – June 2008).