Living Below The Line Press Release by Malaria No More

The other day, Malaria No More sent me this press release that they have written about me and Jeremy Lefroy ‘living below the line’. 

Staffordshire MP and sixth form student live below the poverty line on £1 a day to save lives from malaria

7th May 2013: How much change can you make from £1? This is the question that Jeremy Lefroy, MP for Stafford and Megan Owen, a sixth form student, are asking themselves as they live on a budget of £1 a day for all food and drink for five days.

They are taking part in Live Below the Line – an innovative campaign to fight extreme poverty. It challenges the public to get sponsored to cut their spending on food and drink to just £1 a day. This budget is a daily reality for the 1.4 billion people around the world who are forced to live below the poverty line every day, for absolutely everything.

Jeremy and Megan are doing the challenge in support of Malaria No More UK as they have both experienced the devastating impact of the disease while living in Africa. Jeremy caught malaria twice during his 11 years working with smallholder farmers in Tanzania (1989-2000) and Megan’s brother suffered from malaria when her family spent five years in Malawi (2008 -2012).

This experience shaped their personal and professional directions on returning to the UK. For Megan it has fuelled a keen interest in tropical medicine and she hopes to become a doctor. Jeremy, who was elected to Parliament in 2010 and has retained a strong interest in African issues, he sits on the influential International Development Select Committee and Chairs an active All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases. It was in this guise that he invited Megan to speak at a meeting the group organised at the Houses of Parliament to mark World Malaria Day on 25 April. 

Megan says: “I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at the Houses of Parliament, but I was warmly welcomed by Jeremy, and he asked me to speak first. There were many people attending the event, including MPs and global health experts, and the theme of the evening was the World Malaria Day theme: ‘Invest in The Future: Defeat Malaria’.

Jeremy adds: “It was our privilege to welcome Megan. Her own story takes us beyond the statistics and speaks volumes about the daily impact of malaria in Africa. She saw her brother suffer and mercifully recover from malaria thanks to swift treatment. We want this to be the case for families across Africa. No parent should lose a child to a preventable disease that costs £1 to treat”.

Jeremy and Megan have since pledged to Live Below the Line. The challenge is in its third year in the UK, and growing strong with almost 5000 people registered so far, raising over £400,000 for charities, including Malaria No More UK. The charity works tirelessly to save and protect millions of lives from malaria, a preventable disease that remains a leading killer of young children in Africa.

Jeremy is doing the challenge one day a week due to his parliamentary schedule, with one week down and four left to go. He reflects: “I wanted to take the opportunity to experience life with my choices totally curtailed – the daily reality for 1.4 billion people today. The challenge also gives a timely excuse to raise awareness about a cause close to my heart – malaria. It is unacceptable that this preventable disease still claims the life of a child every minute and we need to do all we can to sustain support to save the lives of the most vulnerable”.

Megan completed her challenge during the Live Below the Line week from 29 April – 3 May. She says: “I was really surprised at how much I could get for my money, although I wish I could have afforded more fresh fruit and vegetables. I missed drinking a cup of tea! But the time goes quickly and it is a great opportunity to raise awareness about malaria – a disease that is, not only caused by poverty, but causes poverty”.

Money raised for Malaria No More UK will be used to help save lives in Africa, where most deaths from malaria take place and where the disease is an ongoing contributor to the cycle of poverty, preventing children from going to school and workers from earning a living.

www.livebelowtheline.org.uk

Climate change could bring malaria to Britain

In this Guardian article, leading health experts are predicting that there is a real risk that malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases could soon be found in the UK. 

Salt marshes used to protect coastal regions and increased flooding, due to global warming, means that the UK is becoming an attractive habitat for mosquitoes.

Health experts, at the annual public health conference of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health this week, are urging governments to “act now before it is too late”, as a growing body of evidence proves that what were once thought of as tropical diseases are being found ever closer to the UK. In 2011, Greece reported a case of malaria.  

Perhaps the threat of malaria in their own back garden will make politicians and scientists put more emphasis on finding a vaccine for this disease which is already killing 1,500 children every day…

image from http://shirtoid.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/malaria-no-more.jpg

My Malaria No More News

I’m really pleased that Malaria No More have published my article about World Malaria Day in their news section on their website.

Click here to find the news article from May 1st.

image from http://malarianomore.org.uk/wp-content/themes/mnm/images/misc/panadol/image.jpg
They have also teamed up with Panadol this month, who will donate 5p to the fight against malaria for every packet of paracetamol sold during May. Panadol have pledged to raise at least £100,000 for Malaria No More’s work. Find out more here.

Last Day of Living Below The Line

I’ve nearly finished living below the line for 5 days – just one banana left to eat. I’m really looking forward to eating what I want tomorrow. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, as the rice and pasta was very filling, just a bit boring. It was tough watching my brothers and sister eating ice lollies and nice food though…

Next year, if I do it again, I shan’t bother buying jam or fish paste, as I only had a little bit of jam and didn’t even open the jar of paste. Teabags would be better, if I can afford them. It would definitely be easier to do it with someone else too, as you could share food and have more variety. The extra support would be good too.

Thanks very much to everyone who has donated and supported me, hopefully I’ll reach my target for Malaria No More soon. If you’d still like to donate, please click here, it’s very easy!

image from http://www.thehungerproject.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Live-Below-the-Line-Global-Poverty-Project-for-The-Hunger-Project-UK_Box-288x300.jpg

 

Living Below The Line – Day 1

live below line food

This is all the food I bought for 5 days living below the line. Altogether it cost exactly 5 pounds from Aldi. I was really surprised at how much I could get for my money, although I wish I could have afforded more fresh fruit and vegetables. 

live below line receipt

I thought I’d have a couple of slices of bread for breakfast – either beans on toast or bread and jam. Lunch is 100g of pasta with tomato and herb sauce. I can have 4 – 5 custard creams a day as a snack, and dinner is rice with chilli kidney beans or mushroom and tomato sauce. I can have 1 pudding a day – strawberry yoghurt or a banana. Mmmmmmmm!

live below the line mealThis is a picture of my dinner tonight. If you feel sorry for me, and you’d like to help me raise funds for Malaria No More, please donate here now. Thanks!

Malaria No More – My Real Life Story

Malaria No More have just published my Real Life Story, on their website here. They asked me to write about why I’m fundraising for them through my Just Giving page, and about my brother who became very ill with malaria.

I’m trying to raise more money for them by taking part in the Live Below The Line challenge next week; all my food and drink must cost £5 or less over 5 days.

 

My World Malaria Day Presentation

APPMG meeting - Megan with Jeremy Lefroy

On Tuesday evening I travelled down to London to give a presentation about malaria to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (APPMG), in Westminster. The event was organized by Jeremy Lefroy, chair of the APPMG, to mark World Malaria Day on 25th April.

I first met Jeremy, when I went to Auschwitz with the Holocaust Education Trust, in February, and I discovered that, like me, he had spent time growing up in Africa. I wrote to him a few weeks later, asking him to continue to support the UK’s commitment to help halve malaria deaths in at least 10
 of the world’s most affected countries by 2015, and to support the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. It’s already saved almost 9 million lives, but 
desperately needs topping up if it’s to continue its vital work.

I was delighted and surprised to receive a reply from the Secretary of State for International Development, as well as an invitation from Jeremy to speak about my experience at the APPMG World Malaria Day event in Westminster.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at the Houses of Parliament, but I was warmly welcomed by Jeremy, and he asked me to speak first. There were many people attending the event, including MPs and global health experts, and the theme of the evening was ‘Invest in The Future: Defeat Malaria’.

I talked about my own experience of malaria, when I was living in Malawi, and about my brother, who contracted the disease, despite the numerous efforts that we took to protect ourselves. Luckily, he was fit, strong, and had access to a private hospital where he received quick, life-saving treatment and was able to recover. But unfortunately 1,500 children still die every day from the disease, even though it’s both preventable and treatable. At the moment, the best prevention for children is to sleep under an insecticide-treated bed net, which can be bought, delivered and hung for just £5. However, I feel that, until there’s a vaccine to totally eradicate the disease, children are going to continue to slip through the net, and even one child dying from malaria is too many.

The next speaker was Dr Rob Newman, Head of the Global Malaria Programme, at the World Health Organisation (WHO), and he gave an overview of malaria today. Other panelists included Dr. Shunmay Yeung, deputy director of the ACT Consortium and a clinical senior lecturer at the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine, who talked about diagnostics; Dr Tim Wells, Chief Scientist for the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), who discussed progress on drug discovery; Dr David Kaslow, director of PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) who talked about new technologies on the horizon; and Dr Kolawole Maxwell, director of the Malaria Consortium Nigeria Programme who focused on implementation of his programmes on the ground.

I was incredibly honoured to take part in such an important evening, and I hope that my small actions might go some way to helping there be malaria no more.

You can support Malaria No More by going to my Just Giving page.

 

Roll Back Malaria "World

Roll Back Malaria World Malaria Day 2009

New synthetic anti-malarial could slow down resistance

According to this New Scientist article, an American company has recently discovered a way to manufacture artemisinin, the world’s most effective anti-malarial drug. In the past, artemisinic acid has always been extracted from the specially grown wormwood plant, and then made into the drug. Now, Amyris, a biotech company, can get yeast to pump out the acid, in just 3 weeks, instead of 18 months, which could make it much cheaper to produce.

However, the malaria parasite is becoming resistant to artemisinin, so this new development could help, if it is combined with other drugs. Unfortunately, some companies are still producing pure artemisinin and 25 countries still allow it to be used, which means that resistance to it is growing.

Hopefully, this new synthetic production of the drug, will make it cheaper to produce, and will out-price the pure artemisinin, so the rate of resistance slows down.

Resistance to artemisinin is mostly in Asia, but there are fears that it could spread to Africa where 90% of malaria deaths occur. It’s also been discovered that parasites in Cambodia have greater genetic resistance to the drug compared with resistant parasites in other parts of the world. Nicholas White of Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand, says that ‘…the most important tool needed to contain resistance is finding a genetic marker for it.’

Let’s hope that research into anti-malarial drugs continues to produce effective results, and that a genetic marker can be identified to combat the resistance of malarial parasites to the drugs. In the meantime, the use of treated bed nets is a really cheap and effective way of reducing the risk of people being bitten, especially children.

This Thursday is World Malaria Day. If you want to help to fight malaria, please click on my Just Giving page here, where a donation of £5 will buy and deliver a treated bed net for a family in Africa. Thanks!

Roll Back Malaria "World

Letter from DFID

The other day I received this email from Lynne Featherstone MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, in reply to my letter about malaria.

Lynne Featherstone MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State

Dear Jeremy,

8 April 2013

Thank you for your email of 18 March to Justine Greening forwarding one from your constituent, Megan Owen, about the UK’s work on malaria control. I am replying as the Minister who leads on the issues raised.

As your constituent indicates the UK Government has made tackling malaria a Government priority, and has made a public commitment to help at least ten countries halve the number of malaria deaths between 2010 and 2015, and we will spend up to £500 million a year to do this. We ensure that we spend the money wisely on what works. We also know the potential for malaria deaths to rebound and are therefore striving to sustain these gains, including by working with national governments and international partners.

Through our malaria programmes and the support we provide to organisations such as the Global Fund, we will deliver more than 60 million bed-nets between 2010 and 2015. That is equivalent to one bed-net from every man, woman and child in the UK.

An example of a malaria programme that DFID funds is in Mozambique, where indoor residual spraying is used to kill the mosquitoes that spread malaria, helping to reduce transmission. This programme will help protect 5.8 million people from malaria, reducing malaria admissions to hospital by 40%, and saving up to 5,000 children’s lives.

DFID directly supports health care workers and the provision of essential health services through our programmes in many countries, which helps countries to prevent and treat malaria effectively.

If your constituent would like to know more she might want to look at the Government’s document called Breaking the Cycle: Saving Lives and Protecting the Future at www.gov.uk/government/publications/. This document sets out how the DFID will work with developing countries to tackle malaria.

The UK Government will continue to help countries control malaria, and reduce the number of children dying until we have properly fought this terrible disease.

I hope this reply helps to assure your constituent of the continuing priority the UK Government attaches to the fight against malaria. I would like to wish Megan well with her studies and her efforts to raise awareness and money for tackling malaria.

Kind regards,

LYNNE FEATHERSTONE

DFID, 22 Whitehall, London SW1A 2EG | www.dfid.gov.uk | +44 (0)20 7023 0000

Letter from The House of Commons

photo-2-1Today I received this letter from Jeremy Lefroy, inviting me to give a presentation at the World Malaria Day All Party Parliamentary Group (APPMG) meeting, about why I believe malaria needs to be a priority for Government. I think that it’s an amazing opportunity, and I’m really excited but a bit nervous too! 

image from http://malarianomore.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/APPMG-logo-179x300.jpg

All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases

Today I received an email from Susan Dykes, coordinator of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (APPMG).  Jeremy Lefroy showed her the letter I wrote to him and she has invited me to take part in their World Malaria Day event on 23rd April, in Westminster.

image from http://www.elca.org/~/media/Images/Our%20Faith%20In%20Action/Responding%20to%20the%20World/Malaria/world_malaria_day_2013.jpg

The APPMG hold regular monthly meetings and invite experts in the field of malaria and tropical diseases to talk and debate with parliamentarians, to try to find both urgent and long term solutions to malaria. They also discuss new ideas and new technologies and methods of field work in the battle against malaria and other treatable diseases.

They take evidence from academic, governmental, international agency, charitable, private sector, professional and other people. Each year they publish an annual report of the evidence gathered by the world’s leading professionals, in order to try to eradicate malaria for good. Jeremy Lefroy is the chairman of the APPMG. 

I’m really excited about going and taking part in the event, as I shall not only learn more about what’s being done to prevent malaria, but also meet some interesting people from different fields.

image from http://blogs.elca.org/malaria/files/2012/03/world-malaria-day2.jpg

Letter to Jeremy Lefroy

I have written this letter to my local MP, Jeremy Lefroy, asking for his support in ending malaria. You can Add your voice too, by writing to your local MP. 

Dear Mr Lefroy,

It was really interesting to meet you when I went to Auschwitz last
month, and to hear about your time in Tanzania. As you know, I’m in the
sixth form, after which I’m hoping to study medicine.
I was first inspired to become a doctor after my younger
brother, caught malaria in Malawi. I really admire the doctors
I met out there and the vital work they do, despite the country’s
poverty and difficulties. Now I’m back in England, I’m raising
awareness and money for ‘Malaria No More’, through my blog about my
journey from Malawi to medical school:
http://medblog.medlink-uk.net/megsjourney/.

I think the UK’s commitment to help halve malaria deaths in at least 10
of the world’s most affected countries by 2015 is so important, and I
would love it if, like me, you could support this amazing commitment
and ensure that it’s backed with sufficient funding. My brother was so
lucky; he was fit and healthy and had access to a private hospital
where he was given life-saving treatment, and was able to recover
quickly. Unfortunately, 1500 children are still dying every day from
malaria, even though it’s preventable.

There’s been amazing progress made in the last 10 years, with deaths
from malaria cut by over 25%, but I don’t feel that this is enough.
Although the UK has played a leading role in reducing malaria, if we
don’t do more, then malaria could rapidly rise again. It would be great
if you could join me in calling for action now, to make sure that this
doesn’t happen.

If you could pass this email to the Secretary of State for
International Development, I’d like to ask her to redouble UK efforts
against malaria, including support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS,
TB and Malaria. It’s already saved almost 9 million lives, but
desperately needs topping up if it’s to continue its vital work.

I believe that defeating malaria would be the greatest humanitarian
achievement of all time, and it is achievable, with enough money and
the right leadership. Ending deaths caused by malaria is very important
to me personally. I know that millions of children die because of the
disease and, without the right care, it could easily have been my
brother.

Thank you for your support,

Megan

The inspirational story of Jo Yirrell

Yesterday evening I watched Mary and Martha, on BBC 1. I found the film incredibly moving, and it has inspired me to do more to help in the fight against malaria. This morning I received this email from Jo Yirrell, the lady who inspired the character of Martha. 

Dear Megan, 

Did you watch Mary and Martha, the new film written by Richard Curtis shown on BBC1 this evening? 
 
If you did, I hope you’ll agree that no parent should lose their child to a preventable disease that costs £1 to treat. 
 
My son Harry died from malaria and my story was part of the inspiration for this film and the character of Martha. I see a lot of myself in her, and just like Martha I got involved with the fight against malaria after my loss. I am honoured to have been able to help and I hope that this important film moves, inspires and engages people across the world about our generation’s momentous opportunity to stop suffering and death from malaria.
 
My own experience shows the reality behind the fiction of Mary and Martha and, sadly, the impact of malaria is devastating for the people who live in malarial areas.  A child dies every minute from malaria, 90% of these deaths are in Africa, 86% are children under five, but we are alive at a time when making malaria no more can be a reality; please make sure you’re part of it.
 
Here’s what you can do to help make sure no parent loses their child to malaria:
Donate now – Your donation has the power to save lives
Live Below the Line – Can you live on £1 a day for five days?
Add your voice – Ask your MP to help halve malaria deaths in 10 countries
 
Thank you from the bottom of my heart
Jo Yirrell
Special Ambassador for Malaria No More UK

I have decided to ‘add my voice’, by writing to my local MP, Jeremy Lefroy, to ask him about what more can be done to help end deaths caused by malaria.

Mary and Martha

image from http://www.tvchoicemagazine.co.uk/sites/default/files/imagecache/full/mary_and_martha.png

Today, BBC1 are showing a drama, written by Richard Curtis, about malaria, for Comic Relief. The film is about two women, Mary and Martha, who have both lost children to malaria, and want to try to prevent it killing any more people.

You can watch a clip of Mary and Martha here.

Although the film is very sad, I think it’s a really important message, and hopefully it will make a difference.

You can help make a difference too, by going to my Just giving page where I’m raising money for Malaria No More.

Interview with Chris Richardson-Wright of Malaria No More

Chris Richardson-Wright works for Malaria No More and he has kindly answered my questions about their work to combat malaria.

Me: I know that you have partnerships in Ghana, Botswana and Namibia which are already helping to protect over ten million people from malaria, are you planning on expanding into other African countries, like Malawi?

Malaria No More: Malaria No More UK invests in countries and programmes according to the extent of a country’s malaria burden and our ability to make a sizeable impact. To date, this has led to investments in: Ghana, where 100% of the population is at risk of malaria; Botswana and Namibia, where a comparatively smaller malaria burden has enabled them to adopt ambitious strategies towards malaria elimination. An example of one of our recent projects in Namibia can be found here and with the help of the Global Fund we’re rolling out the pilot scheme across the country. Whilst we are currently investing in malaria control programmes on the ground in Ghana, Botswana and Namibia – where we have been able to use our funding to leverage a significant impact – our advocacy and communications support extends across Africa and beyond. Our efforts have, for example, helped to secure an increase in UK aid support for malaria, with the government committed to spending up to £500 million per year on malaria by 2014. We have also been successful in advocating with DFID for this funding to be directed at those countries hardest hit by the malaria epidemic – including Uganda, Rwanda & Ethiopia. Go here for more information on where UK aid is being spent on malaria. 

Me: There is a focus on mosquito nets for the prevention of malaria, but in reality people can still become infected when they are not sleeping under their net. How likely is it that there will be a vaccine available in the future?

Malaria No More: Vaccines are seen as the most effective – and often cheapest – means to stop the spread of disease. Scientists around the world are working on the development of a vaccine against malaria and there are promising developments on a weekly basis. However, the malaria parasites have proven to be remarkably adaptable. They change their characteristics as antibodies are developed, making it hard to find a vaccine.

Currently there is no vaccine that has been approved for use, although there are trials of a malaria vaccine happening at present in Africa. It will be some years before a vaccine is available to help prevent the spread of malaria among all those vulnerable to the disease. In the meantime, we need to concentrate on providing prevention, testing and treatment.

It is worth noting that although a vaccine would be a great solution, we do have the tools to achieve country-level elimination of malaria without vaccines, and bed nets remain one of our most effective weapons.

Me: How close are we to achieving the global goal of near zero deaths from malaria by 2015?

Malaria No More: The target of near zero malaria deaths by 2015 was set by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership in 2008, we have the knowledge and tools to make this vision a reality. Increased international support and strong African leadership have enabled tremendous progress with malaria deaths reduced by almost 10% between 2008 and 2009. However, we are still a long way from achieving this goal and increased and sustained support will be critical over the next few years. Current international funding in 2011 amounts to just one third of the anticipated need. Although it looks increasingly likely that the target may be beyond us, it has provided a brilliant aim for the global malaria campaign to rally around and has helped launch initiatives that otherwise may not have come into effect. Funding decisions made over the next few years could determine whether we continue to see a decline in malaria cases, or whether we see a resurgence in the disease, so we have to make sure that we keep up the pressure and the effort to fight the disease.

Malaria No More – Live Below the Line

Malaria No More have sent me this information about a great challenge which is coming up to raise money for the charity…

“Live Below the Line is back!
Between 29 April and 3 May, we will be part of an amazing movement to help tackle malaria and other causes of extreme poverty. Hundreds of people from all walks of life will be Living Below the Line for Malaria No More UK.

The Challenge?  To live on £1 for all food and drink for 5 days. Why?  Because that’s the reality for the 1.4 billion people who live below the poverty line everyday for everything.

It sounds like a tough challenge, but we and 200 of our supporters and friends took part last year raising vital funds and awareness to help beat malaria.  Take a look at this short film clip to see how much fun we had.

Will you join us in 2013?

It’s less than two weeks until Live Below the Line launches for 2013, but it’s not too late to get ahead of the crowd and sign up now.

Malaria is one of the greatest causes of poverty in Africa, but it’s one of the cheapest to end.  In fact it costs less than the price of a cup of coffee to treat a child and save their life. You can be a part of making malaria no more by signing up to Live Below the Line this year.”

‘Malaria No More’ News

This morning I was asked to share this news from Malaria No More, as I’m supporting their work to combat malaria. Thank you to all who have donated on my Just Giving page.

Dear Megan,

The results are just in from work we helped support in Namibia to increase malaria testing and we wanted to share the great news with you!

Namibia’s amazing progress against malaria has seen rates slashed by over 95% in the last decade, making accurate diagnosis before treatment is given even more important. With your help, we supported development and testing of a new health worker training programme focused on improving diagnosis, including the use of rapid diagnostic tests for malaria.

THE RESULTS
Over 100 health workers were trained in Kavango, the region with the highest reported malaria illness. The results of the programme showed a significant rise in the number of patients tested for malaria and an increase in correct prescriptions of malaria treatment.

The strongest improvement was seen when training was followed up by mentoring, resulting in the number of patients tested rising from 27% to a whopping 90%. Almost 8,000 people benefited from malaria testing in the six months following the training and the work continues.

It is extremely encouraging that the increased testing also showed much lower levels of malaria in the region than previously thought. This is really positive news for Namibia’s efforts to become malaria free and helps the Ministry of Health to plan for the future.

Angelika, one of the malaria mentors, told us “This training has helped us frame the way we look at cases… we have proof that we are fighting malaria and getting to zero local transmission. It is something I can already see, the training changed our mindset. We are not vulnerable. We can combat malaria.”

CONTINUING THE WORK
Excitingly, efforts now are underway to roll out the new training and mentorship programme across the country with support from The Global Fund.

We are also continuing our work in Namibia with a new programme helping health clinics and communities identify and target responses in the country’s remaining malaria hotspots; aiming to maximise impact towards Namibia’s goal to become malaria free by 2020.

SHARE THE NEWS
It’s wonderful to be able to share this step towards making malaria no more with you – we’d love it if you wanted to share the good news too!

Malaria swim; SAIntS, Malawi

Last Friday, at Saint Andrew’s International High School (SAIntS), my old school friends took part in a sponsored swim to raise money to help prevent malaria. This 24 hour swim raises money to buy mosquito nets, for hospitals in Blantyre, which are essential for stopping the spread of malaria, and saving lives. Last year, I took part in the overnight swim. We were in teams, taking it in turns to swim lengths of the school pool throughout the day and night; altogether we managed to swim the length of Lake Malawi, 580km. It was exhausting, but great fun and we knew we were helping a good cause.

image from http://www.unmultimedia.org/radio/english/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/nets-children.jpg

Malaria kills more than 1 million people in Africa each year, 90% of them are children. Toddlers are especially vulnerable as they no longer drink their mother’s breast milk, which is rich in anti-bodies, and haven’t had time to develop their own resistance. Cerebral malaria is particularly dangerous and life-threatening, as it can cause a reversible coma when it infects the human brain.

image from http://www.organizedchaosonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/how-to-relieve-mosquito-bites.jpg

However, in Blantyre, Malawi, an international team of scientists are leading the way in malaria research, at the Blantyre Malaria Project.

Dr Terrie Taylor and Dr Malcolm Molyneux, designed a simple rating scale for depth of coma, called the Blantyre Coma Scale, which allows children to be more quickly and reliably assessed and treated. The method has been widely adopted elsewhere, and today the Blantyre Coma Scale is used worldwide for the assessment of severely ill children.

Another crucial discovery, made in Blantyre, is that severe malaria infection often causes a drastic fall in blood sugar levels, which contributes to the malarial coma. Staff at Queen’s Hospital, Blantyre found they were able to turn around many of the sickest children using nothing more complicated than intravenous glucose.

The Blantyre Malaria Project probably helped to save my brother’s life in 2010. Within minutes of arriving at Queen’s Hospital with a high fever, he had been tested and diagnosed with the highest level of malaria. Just a short while later, he was admitted to hospital and put on one of several quinine drips. Luckily, being generally fit and healthy, he recovered quickly and 5 days later was back at home. Many other children aren’t as fortunate.

But malaria is not only responsible for millions of deaths; it also cripples the African economy, because of the number of sick days people take every year, especially during the wet season. And yet, simply by sleeping under a mosquito net at night, the number of cases can drop considerably.

If, like me, you want to help put an end to malaria, you can go to my Just Giving page, and donate to Malaria No More.