Umu-Eke is a fictional community in West Africa. It is a semi-urban sprawling settlement, inhabited mainly by farmers, teachers, government workers, transporters, artisans, traders and more. You are about to hear our malaria story, the story of our fight with mosquitoes and this disease.
Do you have a malaria story, at personal or community level? What damage have these insects inflicted on you, your family, your community and how you are fighting them? Please share it so that others can learn from your experiences. Here you will hear the stories of our people, a farming and petty trading community.
By the time you go through our stories, hundreds of children in our community would have died of malaria attacks. You will hear the malaria stories of community elders, a school principal, a herbal medicine dealer, a retired soldier, a transporter, and others.
Mosquitoes are attacking us everywhere, every day and night, in our homes, offices, shops, factories, churches, motor parks, community halls and they are winning the war. Why? Poor infrastructure, unhygienic habits and low living and standards have created the proper environment for these insects to thrive and attack us. And our counter attack is not strong enough. That is why mosquitoes are dealing with us in Sub- Saharan Africa, especially in the rural communities and semi-urban centres, thrashing our men, women, and children.
These mosquitoes are everywhere. We keep our environment dirty- a good home for them to breed. They breed there in large numbers, and grow there and invade our homes to live with us. Yet they don’t us pay rent. Rather they cause pain, sorrow, lost jobs, and business setbacks, community quarrels, sorrow, even deaths. They are stinging and biting us, sending us to clinics and health centres where we hardly see Doctors or get medicines we can pay for. That is why many of us are turning to use of herbal medicines. But the prices of these herbals are also going up because of increased patronage, beyond the reach of many of us, who are impoverished citizens of badly-managed state economies, and in consequence, have become permanent malaria patients in Africa. The list of our woes, troubles and pains caused by mosquitoes and malaria is long.
Our families are endangered, especially pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children under 5 years. Who is causing this whole problem? The mosquitoes that live in our homes and our environment. They attack us especially at night when we are sleeping without covering ourselves with insecticide treated nets.
They suck our blood as food, and put disease in our bodies in return, Why? This is not fair. We are losing the war against malaria. In fact these mosquitoes have become terrorists, waging a fierce war against us as they fly, sing and sting. If you live in Umu-Eke, with all its terrible living conditions and poor infrastructure, and you are still alive, God loves you. He has kept you alive to join the army of those fighting malaria and mosquitoes which carry the parasite that causes malaria. Medical personnel call the parasite, plasmodium. If you look at your blood with naked eyes, you can’t see it. But if you go to the lab, and they test you, their equipment can detect it in your blood.
What about me, Ikenga and my family of six? Oh dear. I am still alive, but malaria has thrashed me badly over the years. It is also dealing with my children. Only my wife is safe. She hardly suffers from malaria. It appears she has a natural immunity against the disease. We are fighting malaria seriously in my family, spending so much money. The windows in our home are all fitted with plastic nets. Yet every night, mosquitoes invade our home and remain to suck our blood for free. Every night, we fleet the house with insecticides. We don’t use mosquito coils anymore because it gives the children catarrh. The window nets cost us big money to install. Now it is getting old, riddled with holes and needs to be changed. Mosquitoes penetrate our homes through these holes after we fleet, every night. This has become a daily ritual for my family, otherwise we will not sleep.
We open all our windows when we go to bed at night because of heat. The public electric power supply is unstable. Power cuts are more regular more than power supply. When the electric power supply returns, we switch on the electric fans which blows and scare the mosquitoes away. We use only insecticides to fight mosquitoes. There are many types in the market. The aerosol type in cans is the most convenient to use. You don’t need pumps to spray the insecticide inside it. You simply press the tip and spray the insecticide.
But the cost of the aerosol type of insecticides has gone up beyond our reach. As a way out to sustain the war against mosquitoes, we bought a fleet pump and insecticide in tins, because they are what we can afford with out small family income. The aerosols, though easier and more convenient to use cost a lot now. You just press it and spray, shh…shh…shh and the quantity is finished in no time. It has become expensive for us.
Many of my family members do not have jobs, so how we continue to use aerosol insecticides to fight mosquitoes. Our war against mosquitoes and malaria is one bitter struggle that I don’t know when it will end. And the mosquitoes appear to be winning for now. The are breeding around us in great numbers causing us pain and disease and worsening our already impoverished living conditions. Our story will continue.
(18 April 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