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[afro-nets] Mosquito/Malaria Control (53)

Mosquito/Malaria Control (53)
-----------------------------

Dear all,

I would also like to strongly agree with Bill Nesler, Peter Bur-
gess, and Hamisi Malebo. In Africa, scientists and public health
officials are almost shunned for talking about the ERADICATION
of malaria. As a scientist, the parasite-vector-host relation-
ship will never cease to intrigue me and I am sure that we will
always be learning something new about malaria, but let us seek
to do so after the eradication of this plague. The public alarm
towards HIV/AIDS is greater than that against malaria. Why? Per-
haps because in Africa children are meant to be seen and not to
be heard. If they die we simply "replace" them and life goes on.

In my high school days when we did African literature, I was
perplexed by a phenomenon described in Chinua Achebe's "The Con-
cubine." He describes the birth of a rogue child which would be
born but to die while still in infancy, only to come back to
torment the mother by being reborn again. It was only through
the intervention of a powerful "medicine-man" that this cycle of
rebirth and death could be stopped. I have since learned what I
thought was strange in West Africa was very much familiar with
what happens in my society here in East Africa. Today it is com-
mon knowledge (at least to the medical community) that malaria
is the # 1 cause of death in children <5. However, we already
have an attitude of complacency in our society concerning the
mortality rates of children. To many, malaria is just a fact of
life. Few really believe that it actually kills, and even to
this day one would still find that "replacement names" such as
Njoki which literally means "returner" (! among the Kikuyu in
Kenya) remain fairly common in the community.

Let us wake up. The impact of malaria on the African peoples is
so great and so "in your face" that we have chosen to filter it
out. The malaria selection pressure across the continent is well
chronicled scientifically in the G6PD deficiency and the Duffy
antigen prevalence. Our child mortality rates continue to bear
out the message, but it falls on deaf ears. Maybe it is out of
complacency or maybe despair in light of the financial implica-
tions, but I believe that today more than ever we can ERADICATE
this perpetual menace of our peoples - once and for all! But the
first step will have to be with the eradication of our compla-
cent attitudes. It is this attitude that perpetuates the tame
and conservative approaches such as the sole funding of ITNs and
chemotherapy in an attempt to assuage our conscience - so that
we can be able to lament when finally forced to admit defeat
"well, well, we tried!"

Robert Karanja
mailto:RKaranja@kemri.org

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