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'Netting' Africa's serial child killer

'Netting' Africa's serial child killer


Malaria causes more than 1 million deaths each year, mostly children in Africa. Insecticide-treated bed nets can stop this ruthless killer.

April 2008

By Janet Root, World Vision U.S., and Robert Vesleņo, World Vision Canada
Harmonie, 3, watches over her baby brother, Tshabala, who sleeps under his very own insecticide-treated mosquito bed net that protects him from contracting malaria. World Vision recently distributed 1,000 of the life-saving nets in their community.
Harmonie, 3, watches over her baby brother, Tshabala, who sleeps under his very own insecticide-treated mosquito bed net that protects him from contracting malaria. World Vision recently distributed 1,000 of the life-saving nets in their community.
Photo ©2008 Paul Bettings/World Vision
Kaluba Tshabala sleeps soundly while his mother, Leonie, tenderly watches over her newborn son.

This iconic image of domestic bliss belies a jarring truth. A serial killer stalks the 2-month-old Congolese infant — mosquito-borne malaria, a leading cause of death among African children younger than 5.

"Malaria has a great impact in the community, specifically [upon] the kids," says Phillipine Mulay Ngabinze, a doctor who works with a district-wide malaria prevention program at the World Vision-sponsored Kaboka Hospital, near Tshabala's home. "It's the main source of death among children."

Malaria accounts for about one in five of all childhood deaths — and 90 percent of these occur in Africa. Though the illness is in check in most corners of the world, sub-Saharan Africa is home to the most deadly species of the mosquito that transmits the disease. It is both preventable and treatable, but many children die because malaria prevention and treatment tools are not readily available or affordable.

Protecting Africa's youngest

Leonie's son is too young to know how privileged he is. Recent data indicate an abysmally low 5-percent insecticide-treated bed net coverage rate in African households. Tshabala, however, sleeps under such a net; his mother received one from World Vision while she was pregnant with him.

"They gave it to me to protect my kids," says Leonie, who shares a three-room mud hut with her husband and their two children in the Kasenga district, a malaria-prone region in the southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). "There is a lot of grass and mosquitoes around us, so it protects us from malaria."

Twice during her pregnancy, Leonie also received an anti-malarial drug at the hospital to prevent her and her unborn child from contracting the disease. If a pregnant woman contracts the disease, she and her child are not only at high risk of dying from the complications of severe malaria, but also neonatal death, premature delivery, or stillbirth.

Fast facts on malaria:*

  • At least 300 million acute cases of the disease occur each year globally.
  • Malaria kills a child somewhere in the world every 30 seconds.
  • An estimated 10,000 pregnant women each year die from malaria complications in Africa alone.
  • Malaria causes more than 1 million deaths each year, mostly children in Africa.
  • 75 percent of malarial deaths worldwide are African children younger than 5.
  • A survey from Tanzania has shown that if 75 percent of an entire village sleeps under a treated bed net, the malaria incidence among children is reduced by 98 percent.

Learning how to live

World Vision donors in Canada support the Kaboka Hospital program that distributed 1,000 bed nets — free of charge — to protect Kasenga's mothers and their children younger than 5. Recipients also received training on how to properly use the nets.

A mosquito net can cost $10 in Congo — a small amount by American standards. However, an average Congolese family income is $120 per year, rendering a bed net an unaffordable luxury item.

Meanwhile, prevention is key to winning the war against this pernicious child killer.

"Prevention is better than [treating], so it is important to raise awareness before, so people know how to prevent people from getting those diseases," Ngabinze concludes. "If prevention is well done, we'll get less serious cases in the hospital because people … know how to live."

*Sources: UNICEF Health: Malaria; WHO: Roll Back Malaria; WHO: 10 Facts on Malaria; UNICEF State of the World's Children 2008 (pdf); PLoS Medicine

Learn more


>> Read about how malaria and AIDS combine to form a deadly duo.
>> Read a UNICEF account of why reversing the spread of malaria is critical for the survival, health, and development of children, and will help achieve the Millenium Development Goals.
>> Learn why Africa carries an "overwhelming proportion of the malaria burden."

Three ways you can help

>> Pray for Tshabala and millions of other African children who deserve a fighting chance against malaria. Pray for organizations like World Vision to continue to provide effective ways to stop malaria.
>> Help provide tools to fight malaria. Your gift will multiply 3 times in impact to provide insecticide-treated bed nets, medical supplies, and more to children and families at risk from malaria.
>> Send a message to Congress. Ask lawmakers to swiftly reauthorize the Global AIDS, TB and Malaria Bill to ensure that children are not left behind in the fight against malaria and global AIDS.

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Learn more

Read about how malaria and AIDS combine to form a deadly duo.
- -
Read a UNICEF account of why reversing the spread of malaria is critical for the survival, health, and development of children, and will help achieve the Millenium Development Goals.
- -
Learn why Africa carries an "overwhelming proportion of the malaria burden."

Three ways you can help

Pray for Tshabala and millions of other African children who deserve a fighting chance against malaria. Pray for organizations like World Vision to continue to provide effective ways to stop malaria.
- -

Help provide tools to fight malaria. Your gift will multiply 3 times in impact to provide insecticide-treated bed nets, medical supplies, and more to children and families at risk from malaria.
- -
Send a message to Congress. Ask lawmakers to swiftly reauthorize the Global AIDS, TB and Malaria Bill to ensure that children are not left behind in the fight against malaria and global AIDS.

 





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