Malaria in Africa

Malaria is a very large global health problem in Africa. Malaria is a blood parasite that is transmitted to people from the bite of an infected mosquito. If not treated promptly, malaria will usually cause death. 90% of malaria deaths worldwide come from the Africa region. Over half a million people die from malaria each year. Children under the age of 5 account for the majority of malaria deaths, with one dying every minute. Malaria can be financially catastrophic for those affected by it. Poverty plays a large role in the occurrence of this disease. Generally, the areas with a high incidence of malaria have a poor government that is unable to supply the people with treatments or proper prevention methods. Once infected, people are no longer able to work and must pay for costly medications, leading to a very devastating economic situation. There is about $12 billion of lost productivity in Africa caused by malaria.

Since malaria is such a worldwide problem, there are many organizations and charities that are focused on helping to solve the problem. The WHO Global Malaria Programme (GMP) is responsible for the plan for malaria control and elimination. They promote malaria prevention techniques such as insecticide nets and indoor spraying. Insecticide treated malaria nets help cut transmission by 50%.

Currently, malaria is complicating an Ebola outbreak that is occurring in Africa. Many of the early symptoms of the two are similar which is causing confusion. Also, patients are becoming very fearful of hospitals and are therefore not seeking proper treatment. Those infected with malaria are staying away from hospitals n fear of contracting Ebola, which is ultimately causing even more fatalities.

Dr. Vinay Kamat, a professor at the University of British Columbia and medical anthropologist, is studying malaria in Africa and the response of a medication know as ALu. The Tanzanian government implemented a new policy that involved health facilities distributing this new drug. Dr. Kamat found that mothers would first rely on store-bought fever medicine instead of seeking medical attention for their children. However, once they were treated with ALu the mothers were satisfied with the drugs effectiveness and affordability. This study encouraged further questioning into ways to promote earlier treatment of malaria.

Kamat, Vinay, and Daniel Nyato. “Community Response to Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy for Childhood Malaria: A Case Study from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.” Malaria Journal. February 26, 2010. Accessed August 9, 2014.

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  1. Haley Macko says:

    The approach medical anthropologist Vinay Kamat employed in addressing the effectiveness of anti-malarials in treating Malaria in Africa was success is richly “embedded in culturally specific expectations” with the theory behind his fieldwork accentuating community. Kamat theorized that “given that people’s prior experiences and perceptions significantly influence the extent to which they “adhere” to the new ACT drug regimen, community level studies of perceptions of malaria and anti-malarials can provide useful perspectives on how people interpret the efficacy of “new” anti-malarials in light of their experience with “old” anti-malarials.” Participant observations, focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews were the most fruitful research methods of Kamat. He posited that there was a pressing demand to orchestrate social and cultural efforts to encourage treatment in a timely fashion. By applying anthropology to this global health concern community beliefs and practices are revealing approaches that ameliorate efforts by people, governments and NGOs, contributing to a better understanding of this global health problem. In addition, “at a time when approaches to dealing with malaria are becoming increasingly treatment-oriented, community-based behavioral research can remind us that the efficacy of anti-malarials is multifaceted.” Furthermore, according to Vinay Kamat socio-cultural, economic, technical, and political interferences are necessary to implement successful delivery of effective malaria treatment in Africa.

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