Conclusion of a 5-part series on the struggles and pains of a rural African community with this killer disease
As I left him, I went to the motor park to make enquiry about the current transport fare to Lagos because of the fuel shortage. As I got to the garage shop of my friend in the motor park, his shop boy told me that hiss boss was rushed to the city previous night for treatment. He was knocked unconscious by malaria. He bought some drugs from Chidi’s chemist shop. But he did not take the complete dose of the anti-malarial drug because of lack of money. Besides, this could be a confirmation that Chidi sells fake drugs. Something has to be done about this boy and his shop.
Greed, poverty, selfishness is crushing our community. Now there is a bigger problem, ignorance. What is the governmentt doing about it? People are not educated on the complete dose of anti malarial tablets they or liquid suspensions they can give their children. All you hear in the radio are combination therapy, insecticide treated nets, take plenty of liquids if you have malaria, eat balanced diet, take plenty of fruits. It is all talk no action, and support. People are poor. Maybe these messages are for residents of urban areas.
What about the poor masses in the rural areas? Where are the treated nets? People are selling them. There are no drugs in our health centres, no drinkable water, no good roads, and no power supply. After malaria, the next health problem is typhoid. Health workers tell us to go for to go for lab test. Where is the money? Besides, public information on the roll back malaria programme is nil.
As I left the garage, the Principal of our Community Secondary School, Mrs. Magaret Tega was driving into the park to send a student of her school to her uncle in Lagos for treatment. She was knocked down with persistent malaria which has defied all treatment including herbal medicine. She was advised to go to Lagos for proper diagnosis and treatment.
I discussed at length with madam. She told me that malaria attacks are causing havoc in the community school. Just last week, a pupil collapsed while taking the Maths II paper in the last May/June West African School Certificate examinations. That means she will be one year behind her classmates because her certificate cannot be complete without English and Mathematics. She will have to retake the Maths paper next year. Even her teachers are also hit by malaria fever, reducing their productivity.
“Malaria is dealing with this community.” She observed. “What is the CDA doing about it? As a community leader, you should know,” she asked me.
Well, madam, the CDA is dead, I replied with regret in my voice. We have to revive it. The old timers who wrecked it want to return to continue to exploit the people.
“So what do we do? She asked.
People are sick. I think we should involve the Market Women Association. Their President is a very upright woman. Malaria killed her only daughter years ago when she was 12, and she has vowed to fight this disease in this community. But she needs to partner with the CDA, elders and other groups for her to succeed, I told Mrs. Tega.
“You had better do something fast. Malaria is crippling this community. And I pledge the support of the Community Secondary School in the coalition against malaria in this community,” she assured.
She continued. “These are my observations about this health challenge in our community. I don’t even know who we are fighting, the mosquito or malaria. The mosquito is the villain. It carries the plasmodium…the vector… which it injects into our body after sucking us dry. Then we are the victims. For me, we the victims are facing double-barreled attacks from the mosquito and the plasmodium. Government’s attention over they years had been focused on fighting plasmodium that causes malaria with anti-malarial drugs.
But these drugs are getting more expensive. Now government is shifting focus to preventive medicine with treated nets. But these nets are not reaching the majority of the poor citizens in this community. I have studied government’s roll back programme and I have observed some serious missing links. Some of them I have already enumerated. Another is that our people are not good in preventive war, that is keeping the environment clean. Our community is still very dirty. The other is the confusion about the combination therapy of taking the anti-malarial medicines. Many of our people think it is to combine herbal and orthodox treatment, a fatal combination. The people need more education on this roll back programme.
This fatal combination almost killed the daughter of Mama Bose’, the herbal medicine dealer. Mama Bose is an advocate of herbal medicine treatment saying it is more affordable and the best option. She will always tell her conviction to anyone who cares to listen. Her marketing skills and the frustration of people experience in getting treatment at the community health centre, increased patronage of her herbal concoctions. Business boomed until malaria struck her daughter Bose who is learning the herbal trade.
The young girl took ill and naturally started treatment with herbal medicine. When she did not get any relief, someone told her that government says the combination therapy is the best way out of the malaria scourge. Thinking it was a combination of herbal medicine and orthodox medicine, she went to Chidi’s medicine store and bought anti malarial tabs and consumed them. She collapsed on her way home. Her mother was selling her wares at the motor park when someone rushed in to tell her that Bose has collapsed.
She rushed to the community health where Bose was taken and saw her daughter lying on a bench. The nurse on duty lashed out at her, blaming her for hawking herbal medicine and deceiving the people on the combination therapy.
Malaria remains a serious health challenge in sub-Saharan Africa. This 5-Part story series was to give readers an insight into how rural communities in this continent are losing the war against mosquitoes and the pains and damages that go with it.
Something has to be done, to check the malaria scourge that is plaguing more than one third of the world’s population.
(27 June 2012)
Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as http://www.ezinearticles.com, www.ezinearticles.com and www.writingcareer.com. He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at http://sallywantsahusband.blogspot.com