Today, on International Day of the African Child, we are putting the spotlight on malaria, a preventable and treatable disease, and how it affects children.
Malaria kills more than 620,000 annually, mainly children under 5 in sub-Saharan Africa. For many children across this region, the threat of malaria is scary and real. Students in Siaya, Kenya participated in an essay competition about the disease, sponsored by the Kenya Medical Research Institute/ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here are excerpts from our favorite winning essays:
The power of a mosquito net
Newtone Omollo, Obambo Mixed Secondary School, Form 4 East
My saddest and most tragic story of malaria happened to my cousin, a teenage mother. She gave birth to wonderful twins… and we were overjoyed… but she would leave the children uncovered without a mosquito net. This continued for several months before we noticed anything suspicious. The children became weak with constant fevers.
One twin, Odongo, was always sleepless, tossing and turning, always crying and sweating. He died in his mother’s arms. The other twin, Opiyo, also began displaying the same symptoms within hours. We pushed my cousin to take him to the hospital and he had acute malaria and had suffered brain damage.
Preventative care works
Samwel Odhiambo Guwa, Agoro Lieye Primary School, Standard Eight
Many years ago our family was affected by malaria. It was difficult to have our daily meals because our parents were not able to go for their work as usual. Sometimes I would be absent from school due to strong fever and headaches. Sometimes I lost my appetite.
One day a health officer from the hospital in Siaya visited us and taught us how malaria could be prevented. He provided us with curative drugs for malaria and treated mosquito nets.
Prevention is better than cure. I would plead with the government to go on with their good work of providing equipment for protecting us from mosquitos and creating more awareness in both rural and urban areas.
What it feels like
Christine Atieno, Asere Primary School, Standard Eight
It was a chilly morning when I was preparing for school. I started feeling very cold. On my way to school, I felt very dizzy and fatigued. I started shivering. I also started vomiting, aching in my joints, and my temperature was very high fever and also headache.
That day we were having an exam. I did mathematics, composition writing … As we were outside for a short break, I could not continue basking in the sun. I could neither walk nor talk nicely. I told my teacher that I couldn’t do the remaining exams and I went to sleep under a tree. My mother came and took me to the hospital.
The doctor told me to [stick] my tongue out. My hands and eyes were white. I was also having anemia because of lack of iron in my body. I was given some medicine by the doctor to complete the exams.
I found my mother and siblings vomiting, which you could have pity for our family. Mother was admitted to the hospital together with my siblings. I remained at home alone. I was not very happy anymore. I went to the hospital to see how they spent the night. My younger sister was as thin as a rope. Her neck was as long as a giraffe’s long neck. Her mouth was dry like a desert region…
I knew that one of my family might have kicked the bucket. I was bewildered by all that time I was left home alone to safeguard. I realize that prevention is better than cure and it is always awesome.