Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Malaria, a mother's greatest fear

6-year-old Eta and her mother Deborah
© UNICEF Indonesia / 2013 / Rob Patmore
There is no worse feeling for a mother than to think that her child might die.Yet, in Sumba, one of Indonesia’s islands in East Nusa Tenggara, too many mothers have watched their children dying from malaria. Malaria is infected through mosquito bites which are endemic in the island.

Deborah knows too well about this feeling. Her daughter, Eta, had such a high fever one night that she was shaking. “I thought she was going to die,” Deborah recalled how horrible she felt that night.

Eta was taken to the nearest health centre where her blood was tested. It was confirmed that she caught malaria. And it was one of the worst kinds.

“The doctor said it was malaria falciparum,” Deborah added. This type of malaria attacks the brain, which explains why Eta had a really bad fever. The doctor immediately gave her anti-malaria tablets to treat her. It is called Artemisinin Combination Therapy or ACT. If taken as prescribed and in completion, the treatment can make her healthy again.

After the treatment was completed, Eta was taken back to the health centre to be tested again. The test result could not make Deborah happier. The malaria parasites were no longer detected in her body.

Eta getting her second blood test.
© UNICEF Indonesia / 2013 / Iwan Hasan
The story is too common for many mothers in Sumba and other islands in the Eastern parts of Indonesia. While malaria cases have been reduced by fifty per cent in the last ten years, there are still 300,000 people being infected by malaria every year of which 4,000 are fatal. Most cases are in Eastern provinces of Indonesia such as Nusa Tenggara, Maluku and Papua.

Checking for malaria parasites
© UNICEF Indonesia / 2013 / Iwan Hasan
100,000 of malaria cases occur among children. Malaria has serious effect on pregnant mothers. When a pregnant mother is sick with malaria, not only her life is at risk, but the baby in her womb is also in danger as it can make her very anaemic.

UNICEF and its partners have made serious efforts in eradicating malaria in Indonesia. This is done by making sure that there are enough insecticide bed nets in malaria endemic areas to protect people, especially children and pregnant mothers, from mosquito bites.

Drug treatment such as ACT is equally important in combating malaria as not only it prevents deaths but also it stops further spread of malaria parasites. UNICEF is advocating the government to ensure that enough resources are allocated to make ACT drugs available in every health centre in endemic regions.

All of these efforts are made so that there is no more mothers like Deborah or a child - like Eta who have to suffer from terrible sickness caused by malaria. You too can play a role in making Indonesia malaria-free; simply click www.dukungunicef.org to find out how !

Returning home to their traditional village after the good news.
© UNICEF Indonesia / 2013 / Andrew Clark

Eta can now play again with her friends at the beach.
© UNICEF Indonesia / 2013 / Andrew Clark