Mary and Martha

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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 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.

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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.

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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.