Malaria is on the rise in Lankien. The numbers say so. Yesterday, I took one of my rare forays outside of the compound and realized why. The compound is rapidly becoming an island in a swamp. Pools of water are collecting everywhere. This is great for watching long legged marsh birds but it is terrible for malaria rates. Pools of stagnant water allow the development of the female Anopheline mosquito, the insect vector of malaria.
There are four species of malaria parasite but only one is of any real importance in this part of Africa, Plasmodium falciparum. In addition to causing simple malaria characterized by fever and headache, P. f. also causes severe life-threatening disease. Globally there are 1-2 million deaths from malaria every year; 90% occur in Africa south of the Sahara. Virtually all deaths are from P. falciparum.
Deaths from malaria are only the tip of the iceberg. There is a vast base of underlying morbidity associated with malaria: recurrent fever, anemia in children and pregnant women, low birth weight, and brain damage from cerebral malaria and low blood sugar.
Basically this is how it works: An infected mosquito bites you. She has several thousand malaria parasites in her salivary glands and injects about 30-100 into you. The parasite goes quickly to your liver where it multiplies explosively, leading to 10,000 to 30,000 malaria parasites. At least 5.5 days later, the parasites are then released into your blood stream where they enter red blood cells and start to multiply again, killing the red blood cell in the process. An infected red blood cell eventually bursts and the parasites are then free to invade other red blood cells. And around and around. The thing that makes the Plasmodium falciparum so much more dangerous than other species of malaria parasite is its ability to stick to the lining of small blood vessels in vital organs such as the brain.
For those who would like to know more about what MSF is doing about malaria, here is a link.
Malaria is a huge complicated global health problem. Two of the big players in fighting malaria are The Global Fund and WHO's Roll Back Malaria: