Yesterday marked World Health Day and the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a campaign called #JUST1BITE. This campaign aimed to improve the awareness of travellers on the basic ways that they can prevent malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever and other vector borne diseases. In order to do this WHO developed a #JUST1BITE “boarding pass” detailing ways in which to prevent people picking up these diseases whilst travelling. Now the WHO twitter page is littered with people taking selfie’s holding up their ‘boarding pass’ as a statement to say that they will look after themselves whilst travelling, they will wear mosquito repellant, sleep under a net and take preventative medicine. Now this of course is a very positive campaign but I can’t help but think, what about local people who live in tropical disease enviornment’s 24/7? Do they get a boarding pass? Can they fly out of the country after a few weeks of ‘being careful’ to not pick up a tropical disease? Can they pop into an outdoor shop and pick up some repellant, some anti-malarials and an impregnated net? I don’t think they are so fortunate.
I myself have just returned from my latest trip to Uganda and as I sit here scratching the remainder of my mozzie bites in my clean, mosquito free bedroom I can’t help but think of my friends sitting in the slums of Kampala. This evening they will be getting ready to sleep on a mat on the floor of a shack surrounded by waste, stagnant water and without a net to protect them from being bitten. These are the people who if they catch malaria may not be able to afford the medicine, these are the people who cannot afford to loose any more hydration, nutrition and body fat. These are the people who should come first when we think about the fight against tropical diseases!
Now don’t get me wrong if you plan to travel to a tropical country and you decide not to protect yourself against tropical diseases, well that’s just unwise. We need to stop these diseases in every situation. However, what I want to do is raise the awareness that still in this day and age preventable diseases are killing the poorest people and children when there is a way to stop them.
I myself have contracted malaria before and it’s not a pretty disease. During my illness I was sent to hospital for a night and received great medical care. My body was so weak that I needed drip upon drip to rehydrate me along with many courses of strong anti-malarials to fight the parasites. Despite the good care it took me over a month to recover from the disease and I lost a lot of body weight. For me I can put this down to a bad experience, a story to tell and a few weeks of work missed out on. However if I had been a malnourished child without access to clean water, good sanitation, a nice clean bed to sleep in with a net and the medicine I needed to recover I could have possibly died and not to mention spread malaria to everyone sleeping in my family hut with #JUST1BITE.
World Malaria Day is fast approaching on the 25th April and we at KCK would like to mark the day by handing out mosquito nets to the children we work with. A mosquito net costs only £3 and can save the life of a child. Actually in the slums it can save the life of the 5 or 6 children who usually share that bed. So please if you feel passionate about preventing little kids from getting this awful disease please donate any amount to help us give them the protection they need. Click hereto donate and help stop Malaria.