Malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa

Malaria is a disease carried by mosquitoes. It is a protozoan, which basically means that it is not a bacteria or a virus but worse; it’s like a real live animal, only very small. The mosquito bites someone with malaria, lives long enough for it to develop, and then passes it on through another bite. In the region I have researched, Sub-Saharan Africa, the mosquitos are plentiful and love to feed off of humans, making it a very malaria-prone place. Once bitten, the infectious cycle takes only two days to full develop and is exhibited through uncomfortable chills and fever.

From the anthropologic perspective, malaria has more than just biomedical factors. For example, socioeconomic status plays a role. The level of healthcare in Sub-Saharan Africa is not at its prime. Poverty is widespread and access to doctors is very limited, especially in rural areas. Other cultural factors, such as the popularity of folk traditions and a slight resistance to biomedical science make treatment less probable. I read an article titled The Social Burden of Malaria that was extemely informational. It discusses how the situation has steadily been improving thanks to the valuable role anthropologists have played in devising a successful way of decreasing the number of malaria cases. By taking into account how the people react to western medicine practices, they have lessened the resistance to treatment, helping the doctors and the medicine do their jobs successfully.

I included a link to notes from a symposium in which Bob Gwadz lectured on Malaria. He worked on research in Sub-Saharan Africa and helped devised ways to help the problem. BY using anthropological techniques, he was working to improve the situation. I value his opinion and knowledge and really enjoyed the lecture. I think that an anthropological view is crucial in any situation related to this.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK3746/

http://www.aaas.org/international/africa/malaria/gwadz.html

2 thoughts on “Malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. In the cases of malaria the anthropologist is using an applied approach because they are putting themselves in the situation and making a difference and improving the cases of malaria. The techniques they are using are basically taking into account how the people of the Africa feel to these treatments to improve the cases. They understand from an anthropological view point that they can’t just come in with western medicine and help. Theses cultures have their own traditions and some resistance to biomedicine. So anthropologists gain the peoples trust their is less resistance.
    I think that applying anthropology will contribute better to understanding of this global health problem because biomedicine and its preventative techniques are not a worldwide belief so in understanding that through anthropology other routes will be used in terms of what they believe to help prevent malaria instead of saying what we think should be done, we can incorporate both ideals with the people of Africa’s views being most important. Otherwise prevention will not be continued. Like in the lecture as it talked about the bed nets and how they were given to help prevent mosquitos from getting through, and the people did not use them in fear of being poisoned from chemicals so all those nets that were given away were really just a waste.

  2. The two links that you posted seem to approach solving the Malaria problem from different angles. The article written by Bob Gwadz gives the background of Malaria and how one gets it, then gives the effects and how it can be treated/prevented. On the other hand, the article titles “The Social Burden of Malaria: What Are We Measuring?”, shows how anthropologists use applied anthropology to treat the disease. I think the second article goes more along the lines of what we learned in lecture. The anthropologists first had to learn about the culture and beliefs of the people they were trying to help. They had to get a first hand perspective in order to understand their values and views on the use of bio-medicine. As the lecture says, many anthropologists run into to the problem of non-compliance from the people they are attempting to treat. By learning the culture, they are more likely to be able to implement the correct treatment into their regular healing practices. If there are certain methods to healing that a culture has done for years, it may be hard for them to accept something different. This is where anthropologists come in. As they interact with the people of Africa and learn about there experiences with Malaria, this leads to a better understanding of the problem. They can find out why some methods are not accepted even though they are proven techniques and why some things that do not work are still tried. Also, they can learn how do the people perceive this disease. Do they even think it is a serious problem or not? One example from our lecture is the case where people in Africa were given free bed nets in order to stop the mosquitoes from getting to them. Most of the people did not use them because they were too hot or the chemicals that were in them even though they would help. So either they do not perceive Malaria as a serious threat or they are willing to take the risk because the nets are inconvenient. There are many things people do in our culture that can compare to this like not wearing a seat belt when driving a car. Though it is safer to wear one and also the law, many people don’t wear them because they may be slightly inconvenient.

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