Malaria: Suffering, tragedy stem from a preventable disease

Malaria slows economic development and can keep whole communities in poverty. Even worse than that, it causes immeasurable pain for children like Jourabe. The 14-year-old girl has contracted malaria herself — and has lost three siblings to a preventable, treatable disease.

Story and photos by Justin Douglass, World Vision Mali.
Published August 9, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

In April and May, the brutal sun beats down on West Africa, raising the mercury to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Suddenly, there is a deafening crack of thunder, and rain comes down in buckets. This rain soothes the barren landscape, and the dust settles, leaving puddles of water everywhere.

The rain is a paradox; it’s a blessing and a curse. It stirs hope for a bumper crop. But it also leaves behind lots of stagnant water — the perfect breeding ground for the female mosquito, which carries the malaria parasite.

A staggering 91 percent of global malaria cases are reported in Africa, which results in great human suffering and hinders economic development for the whole continent. In Mali alone, 68 percent of deaths among children under 5 are attributable to the disease.

Jourabe, 14, who contracted malaria last year, knows just how horrible it is.

‘I thought I was going to die’

“When I got malaria, I thought I was going to die,” Jourabe says. The girl has seen three of her siblings — ages 1, 2, and 3 — die from malaria. It is a fear that she lives with.

“The only thing we have left of the three children who died from malaria are memories,” says Jourabe’s mother, Djenebou Diarra. “I cannot forget the memory of my children who died.”

Tragically, the family now knows that the deaths were preventable. “My three children died from malaria before I knew that a mosquito net is the answer,” says Tiekoura Coulibaly, Jourabe’s father.

Tiekoura, Jourabe's father, has also seen the terrible effects of malaria. He had to take his gravely-ill daughter to the hospital on a muddy road while pushing her on a bike.Jourabe’s first symptoms of malaria included vomiting, fever, dizziness, chills, and bloodshot eyes. “The first three days were the worst,” Tiekoura says.

When Jourabe’s mother saw her daughter’s deteriorating condition, she offered encouragement, but admits now that she wasn’t optimistic. “I felt hopeless and troubled,” she recalls.

A terrible journey

Tiekoura decided to take Jourabe to the hospital a week later. But first, he had to find fellow villagers who could lend him the equivalent of U.S. $10.

When he finally got it, he sat Jourabe on his bike rack and tried to pedal. Normally, the ride would take 30 minutes. But recent rains had made the road very muddy, and Tiekoura was forced to push Jourabe and the bicycle through mud and water, dripping with sweat.

He also had to make stops along the way when Jourabe was vomiting. “It was very difficult,” he remembers.

An exhausted Tiekoura and a very sick Jourabe eventually arrived at the health center, where the girl was examined, diagnosed with malaria, and given medication.

Malaria’s vicious side effects

Jourabe's mother is happy to tuck in her daughter under the mosquito net the family received from World Vision.The cost of malaria medicine for a child of Jourabe’s age is equivalent to a one-month supply of peanuts for the family. And August — the month when Jourabe fell ill — is peak season for cultivation, when all family members are working in the field to foster as big of a harvest as possible.

But when Jourabe contracted malaria, they all stopped attending to their crops and took care of her. So it’s easy to see how this preventable disease can stifle economic growth and keep families and entire communities in poverty.

Thankfully, with the help of the medication she received, Jourabe eventually recovered from malaria. In the time since, World Vision has distributed 422,800 insecticide-treated bed nets to families in 11 program areas, including Jourabe’s family.

“I am glad to get [a] mosquito net, because it is the solution for malaria. The mosquito net is the solution for my suffering,” Tiekoura says. “A family with no malaria can develop and increase their economy and get stability.”

Ultimately, World Vision seeks to reduce global cases of malaria by 75 percent, with a goal of nearly zero preventable deaths at the hands of this terrible disease.

Learn more

Read another story about malaria’s devastating effects in a village in Mozambique on the World Vision Blog.

Three ways you can help

Please pray for children and families like Jourabe and her siblings, who suffer needlessly because of a disease that can be so easily prevented and treated. Pray that efforts to eradicate malaria worldwide would succeed.

Make a one-time donation to provide bed nets for a family. These inexpensive nets can spare a family the suffering that Jourabe and her siblings have faced at the hands of malaria — and because the nets last for up to four years, it’s one of the most sustainable, cost-effective investments you can make.

Give monthly to help World Vision fight global malaria. Your monthly donation will help us implement life-saving solutions worldwide, like prevention education, treated bed nets, and more.