What Happens When Malaria Strikes
by Dr. Caroline W. Njuki, GBGM-MCR, Africa Office
A recent malaria outbreak at the Humble School, a United Methodist primary school in Uganda , demonstrates how malaria disrupts lives, steals productivity, and is a drain on precious resources. The disease, spread by the bite of the anopheles mosquito, devastates the lives and livelihoods of millions of Africans, killing a child every 30 seconds.
Humble School has 204 students. They are mostly orphaned children from throughout Uganda. Some children live at the school while others commute there for classes. All students receive three meals each day as well as instruction in English, social studies, math, hygiene, art, history, and geography. The school also provides them with medical care.
In May 2007 the annual malaria outbreak that coincides with the rainy season proved to be particularly virulent. This season 117 of the 204 students at Humble were sickened by malaria. Staff members were also affected.
This outbreak overwhelmed the health center. Those too sick to stay in their dorms were brought to the sick bay which became so full that the children slept two to a bed. Nurse Rosette Kamugisha spent many sleepless nights tending to children suffering the terrible effects of malaria: high temperatures, vomiting and joint pain. Some, unable to eat or drink grew so sick they needed intravenous fluids and medications. Others were so ill they had to be hospitalized.
Malaria treatment can become expensive. Sometimes multiple treatments are required to fully cure the patient. The costs can become prohibitive.
Not only does malaria affect the child or teacher's health, it also impacts their attendance, performance, and their ability to complete their work for the school year.
Plans for Prevention
In light of this year's epidemic, Nurse Kamugisha has made a list of recommendations to decrease the prevalence of malaria at Humble School:
- Provide more mosquito nets for the children
- Use all means necessary to reduce the mosquito population on school grounds
- Keep the grass around the school short and remove any stagnant water
- Have stronger anti-malarial drugs in the school pharmacy
- Encourage further research on malaria
Helping the Community
Although the school faces its own challenges, the wider community around Humble School has more difficult circumstances. They do not have access to even the limited health resources of the Humble School. The Humble School clinic is stretched to its limits just treating students and staff. Yet, the school still wants to be able to serve their community. "Do you turn away a parent of a child at our school?" asked an administrator.
In an effort to answer this need, Humble School has begun developing a community health clinic that is slated to be completed later this year. The clinic would benefit students and those living in a 15-kilometer radius around the school. Local physicians and clergy have donated their services to the clinic, and the school will hire a medical assistant to oversee administration of the clinic and its services. The construction has begun and progresses with each passing day; however $30,000 is still needed to complete the clinic. You can help support the Humble School and its clinic through Advance #14190O, The Humble Place.
Malaria is a life threatening problem throughout sub-Saharan Africa. You can contribute to the effort to reduce the burden of malaria through the Comprehensive Malaria Control Program which funds primarily United Methodist programs that address all areas of malaria prevention and control. Programs include education, net and medication distribution, and health care. You can support these efforts through UMCOR Advance #982009 .