Mama Berta lives in a village in the African country of Tanzania. She cares for her three grandchildren, who are two, five, and seven years old. You might be surprised to learn that her biggest worry is something very tiny: mosquitoes.
Though tiny, mosquitoes in Africa pose a big danger. Many of them carry a parasite that causes a disease called malaria. When one of those mosquitoes bites a person, the parasite gets into the person’s bloodstream and makes them very sick.
In many parts of Asia, Europe, and the Americas, this awful disease is under control or simply gone. But in Africa, where malaria is still a big problem, the insects spread the disease quickly and easily.
In the past year, Beatrice (age two) has had malaria twice. She was lucky, because she survived. A child dies every 30 seconds in Africa from malaria—3,000 die every day. Adults die, too. And many others get very, very sick with headaches, fever, and vomiting. One time, Beatrice had to spend a week in the hospital.
But a program called “Malaria No More” has an answer: mosquito nets. The organization gives the nets to families. One net is big enough for two or three family members to sleep under.
Most of the mosquitoes which carry malaria come out between ten at night and four in the morning. The bed nets stop the mosquitoes from getting through so they can’t bite, and the nets are treated with chemicals that make the mosquitoes stay away and kill them on contact. So these nets protect people from malaria while they are sleeping.
Malaria No More gave Mama Berta a net to hang over the childrens’ bed. “The mosquito net not only means healthy children who are strong enough to play and learn, but a grandmother who can rest a little easier, knowing that they are safe,” says Martin Edlund of Malaria No More.
We have vaccines to protect us from many diseases, but so far no one has been able to develop one for malaria. Until then, Malaria No More and other organizations are working hard to teach African families how to protect themselves from mosquitoes and stay well.
- Each year there 300 million cases of malaria worldwide
- One million of those cases result in death; 90 percent of the deaths are in Africa
- Malaria also exists in Central and South America, parts of Asia and Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean
Text by Catherine Clarke Fox