Malaria in Africa

Malaria is a disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through mosquito bites by affected mosquitoes. Malaria is life-threatening, but it is also preventable and curable (1). Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites and is transmitted exclusively through the bites of Anopheles mosquitoes. Most deaths occur among children living in Africa. This age-dependent risk is due to partial immunity, which is developed over years of exposure. Although it doesn’t provide complete protection, it reduces the risk that infection will cause severe disease. (In areas with less transmission and low immunity, all age groups are at risk). Risk for transmission also has a geographic factor. Transmission if more severe in areas where the lifespan of the mosquito is longer, so that the parasite’s lifespan is completed and it has fully developed inside of the mosquito. Africa is an area where this implication is strong: the long lifespan and human-biting habit of the African mosquitoes is why about 90% of the world’s malaria deaths are in Africa (1). Mosquito nets that are treated with insecticides and insecticide sprays are used to prevent malaria. Antimalarial medicines can also be used to prevent malaria. The World Health Organization has a strong association with the spread of malaria. The WHO is concerned with keeping records of global progress, developing approaches for systems strengthening, and identifying threats to malaria control and elimination (1).

In a village in Tanzania, a medical anthropologist used a combination of ethnographic methods to gather data. These methods included participant observation, oral life history interviews, illness narrative interviews, group discussions, and surveys of household socioeconomics and health. In a particular village, interviews with 45 mothers revealed that most of them had delayed bringing in sick children for medical attention because they had thought that infection was just an “ordinary fever.” He was successful in data collection, which was the aim of his visit to the African village.

(1) “Malaria Fact Sheet.” World Health Organization. March 2014 <>.

(2) Hahn, Robert A.; Inhoim, Marcia C. “The Anthropology of Childhood Malaria in Tanzania.” Anthropology and Public Health: Bridging Differences in Culture and Society. Second Edition. 2009 <>.

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