We Suffer from the same Illness as in Ancient Times

Records from as far back as 1550 BCE in the Ebers Papyrus (an Egyption medical text) describe the same symptoms the world sees in malaria today: headaches, chills, periodic fevers, and an enlarged spleen. The disease is believed to have been brought to Europe through the Nile Valley. During the time of the Roman Empire, it was recognized that those living near marshlands were often those who fell ill to the “Roman fever”. The Italians call it mal’ aria, which translates to “bad air”, since they believed bad air was the cause of the illness. Malaria was a worldwide disease by the 1800s. In 1880, blood from those who contracted malaria were examined and the parasites were discovered. Many scientists dedicated their lives to discovering the means of transmission, allowing the world to now know that only 50 of the 3,000 mosquito species are capable of spreading malaria through the bite of a female. It takes less than an hour for the parasites to reach the liver, where they will remain for anywhere between two weeks to several months, before multiplying in red blood cells and taking over the body.

3,200,000,000 people around the world are threatened with malaria. There are 200,000,000 cases worldwide each year. Over 80 percent of all cases (160,000) are in Africa, and 90 percent of the deaths caused by malaria are on the continent. One in ten children will have contracted malaria and died before they reach the age of five. On average, one child will die every three minutes. Nigeria has the most cases of malaria, numbering 200,000 deaths per year. 96 percent of Nigerians are at risk of contracting malaria; it is a country which has no safe haven from the malady.

The United States State Department needs to fund Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to help exterminate the parasite. The Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, is one of the best choices for the State Department to fund. Malaria is one of the most common diseases MSF treats and it costs only 40 cents to buy anti-malarial pills for a child. The anti-malarials work, despite urban myths, but in Nigeria specifically, the drugs “are either falsified, or of poor quality, or degraded or substandard” as citizens sell bogus medicine to earn a living. The harder struggle for NGOs comes with reaching remote areas that are the most at-risk, however, Doctors Without Borders treated over 2,500,000 cases of malaria during 2016. MSF has efficient and transportable diagnosing blood tests traveling with mobile clinics that follow the population, so no one is restricted from treatment. MSF works to improve the effect of anti-malarials, as the parasites have begun to develop a slight immunity to the medicine, and provides the anti-malarials preventatively, along with mosquito netting to anyone who needs it.

Considering the deavistating nature of malaria, the State Department should invest in the Malaria Consortium as well as MSF. The Malaria Consortium already provides care in Nigeria. During the 2019 malaria season the workers aspire to treat 3,680,000 vulnerable children with anti-malarials. The Malaria Consortium passes out long-lasting insecticide coated nets, to kill the mosquitoes transmitting the disease. The Malaria Consortium is either already partnered or looking to partner with many other organizations in an effort to eradicate the disease. It plans to monitor and research drug resistance in Southeast Asia, as to prevent the spreading of drug resistance to Africa. Should the ability to resist drugs spread, undoubtedly the death toll will begin to rise from the current lowered figures, which represent the hard work put into fight this devastating disease. Malaria is a disease that has plagued the world for centuries. It is time to defeat the parasites that torment mankind. The United States State Department can do much for the eradication of the endemic, if they only decide to fund the NGOs specialized in anti-malarial treatment.

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