Malaria Prevention

wikipedia mosquito net image

wikipedia mosquito net image

April 25th 2014 was World Malaria Day. Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite, transmitted by mosquito bites.  Prevention is ideal, but treatment for malaria is also possible.  Malaria does not have to be a killer disease.  Although both prevention and treatment are expensive,  organisations such as UNICEF, WHO, The Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, The World Bank and others are working towards eradicating malaria worldwide. One of the projects involves the funding and distribution of insecticide-treated nets (commonly known as ITNs).

Zambia is one of many sub-Saharan countries that struggles in the fight against Malaria. It affects more than 4 million Zambians a year, and results in over 8,000 deaths annually. That means 8,000 preventable deaths every year.  Furthermore, 50% of the fatal cases are in children under 5 years old. It’s not all bad news, though. Some progress has been made in recent years: between the years 2000 and 2010 Zambia has halved its malaria mortality rate with their Roll Back Malaria campaign. (UNICEF Zambia). Yet it is not enough. More can be done.

As already mentioned, malaria is preventable and treatable, yet we are still seeing millions of cases per year. It is a complicated process, expensive and requires compliance on many levels. Sleeping under treated mosquito nets is one string of the defense; covering exposed skin is another.  Once diagnosed with the disease, immediate treatment is imperative.  The symptoms mimic other less serious ailments, such as influenza.  These are all barriers to effective eradication of the disease.

Here’s the low-down according the  World Health Organization:

Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes.
In 2012, malaria caused an estimated 627 000 deaths (with an uncertainty range of 473 000 to 789 000), mostly among African children.
Malaria is preventable and curable.
Increased malaria prevention and control measures are dramatically reducing the malaria burden in many places.
Non-immune travelers from malaria-free areas are very vulnerable to the disease when they get infected.

So when I read this article this morning in the Lusaka TimesTurning Mosquito Nets into wedding dress laces, chicken run fences and fishing nets worry government, and then read some of the readers’ comments, I felt I had to write about it.

I have reproduced the article below:

GOVERNMENT has expressed concern at the increasing number of people misusing Insecticide Treated Mosquito Nets (ITNs) by turning them into wedding dress laces, materials for chicken run fencing and fishing purposes.

Namwala District Commissioner, Gavia Nsanzya said the mosquito nets should only be utilised to prevent malaria because it was a serious health burden.

Mr Nsanzya said Government was dismayed with reports and actions by some people particularly in remote areas to misuse mosquito nets.

“My office will not take kindly to anyone who will be found abusing mosquito nets. As Government, we believe it is high time we become responsible of our own destiny,” he said

Mr Nsanzya was speaking at the weekend at Chitongo Rural Health centre in Namwala during commemoration of this year’s World Malaria Day under theme ‘Invest in the future: Defeat Malaria’.

He said Government under diligent leadership of President Michael Sata was committed in providing quality health care services to people particularly those in rural areas.

“As Government, we are appealing to you brothers and sisters not to abuse these facilities. We have cases where mosquito nets have been used as fences for chicken runs, as well as wedding dresses and fishing nets,” he said.

World Vision Zambia (WVZ) coordinator for Maternal, Child Health, Nutrition and HIV/AIDS in Southern Province, Matrida Mukombo said the organisation would this year distribute a total of 2,283,000 mosquito nets across the country.

Ms Mukombo said scaling up the use of mosquito nets was one of major priorities of WVZ control strategy against malaria.

“World Vision as a child focused organisation has put malaria prevention, correct diagnosis and correct treatment especially for pregnant, lactating mothers and under five children as one of top agendas in its health programming,” she said.

If you follow the link, you will be able to view the comments section.  Unfortunately, the reaction to the concerns over correct use of the nets lack sobriety.  Malaria is so common here, and claims so many lives, yet Zambians do not treat the prospect of malaria with the severity it deserves. I believe there is still a lack of understanding about causes and prevention.  The prevalence of standing water in the rainy season certainly aggravates the situation further.

Another issue may concern attitudes toward death in general. Unlike in western societies, very rarely does the news of an untimely or unexpected death prompt the response ‘Oh, I am so sorry. What happened?’

In Zambia, all too often, the cause of death is unknown: health care is spread very thin already. A postmortem examination is beyond the means of the average citizen.  Cause of death is normally open to speculation rather than autopsy.  Consequently, the true figure for number of deaths due to malaria may not be accurate; people do not always know why their loved ones have passed away.

I notice on the same newspaper website, the headline Mosquito Nets turned into goal post nets dated April 12th, 2013.  They need nets in their football goals more than they need nets to protect themselves from malaria?

Conclusion? We can distribute mosquito nets and demonstrate their effective usage, but we can’t force people to use them for malaria prevention.  The only option is to continue to educate, advise and distribute the means to beat the disease – hoping that little by little the death toll drops.moz2_1355352a

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Cape Town

I’d heard the hype.  Everyone told me ‘You’ll love it!”.  Nevertheless, we postponed our original trip at Christmas and decided to visit Cape Town during School Spring holiday in March.  We only had 7 days available, but thought this was preferable to the two weeks we would have spent in South Africa at Christmas.

Cape Town

Cape Town

First view of Table Mountain

First view of Table Mountain

V& A Cape Town

V& A Cape Town


I think we may have been wrong about that.  It was wonderful – all the more so when you arrive there from Zambia. Still Africa, but the differences between the two are extreme. It felt like a wonderful treat, I could have happily stayed longer.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather, unfortunate timing for seeing whales but we saw dolphins in front of our hotel near the V&A Waterfront.

Can you spot the dolphins?

Can you spot the dolphins?

We started in Cape Town, and spent a couple of days there; we went surfing (or in my case, shark-spotting) in Muizenberg.  From there we drove down the eastern side of the Cape Peninsula to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point.

 

 

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Jackass Penguins at Simon’s Town.

 

These penguins actually do sound like Jackasses braying, hence the name.

The weather was against us for a trip up Table Mountain, so we continued on our journey to Hermanus.

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The Marine at Hermanus is an old-fashioned type of hotel; the restaurant Seafood At the Marine served THE BEST salmon I have ever had. Honestly. I’m not sure I can ever eat salmon again.

We took kayaks out from the old harbour and visited the young male fur seals that like to hang out among the kelp. I have no photos of them, unfortunately, as I have a history of falling out of sea kayaks, with my camera tucked inside my life jacket. I didn’t fall in this time (and probably won’t ever again) but as dry bags weren’t provided, I wasn’t prepared to risk it!

The kayaks set off from this gorgeous little old harbour. I loved it.
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I missed out on swimming in the ‘sea-water’ swimming pool. I noticed it the first morning when I got up at sunrise to take pictures (See featured image at the top). There were some people, locals I assume, swimming at 6am, and I decided I would brave the chilly temperatures the following day. Unfortunately, it was EVEN chillier the next day and I chickened out. SONY DSC

After another couple of hours of surfing (or, in my case, flailing around on a body board in a wetsuit – attractive!), we headed north to Stellenbosch.

I appear to have failed to take photos of Stellenbosh, other than the walk we did to this waterfall. It was beautiful and we were lucky enough to have it all to ourselves.

Waterfall at Jonkershoek Nature Reserve

Waterfall at Jonkershoek Nature Reserve

The entire week passed by in a flash. We would love to go back, there was so much we didn’t have time to do and see.

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Dog with a blog

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Good Evening All,

My name is Bailey: I am, what some would call, a Heinz 57 dog. Others might use the term ‘mongrel’, which frankly is a little insulting. One visitor rudely referred to me as a ‘garbage dog’, and now the family are all saying it.

The definition according to Wikipedia :

When breeds mix, their offspring manifest a wide variety of appearances; some resembling one breed closely, while others clearly exhibit features of both. However, as mixed breeds continue to interbreed, subsequent generations moderate toward a roughly similar appearance. They tend to be fawn or black and weigh about 18 kg (40 lb) and typically stand between 38 and 57 cm (15 and 23 inches) tall at the withers.

The truth is that I have an uncanny resemblance to every stray you might see by the roadside anywhere in Zambia. On further researching the subject, my adoptive mother has discovered that my people are all over Africa.

I am energetic, alert and love to play. Especially with the old cat my family already had when I got here, and the kitten they found in the bush before Christmas. For some reason they get really upset when I want to join in the chasing and fighting games.

Now, I am a very loving, loyal and soppy thing. I will sit by your feet, follow you everywhere and protect you. Unfortunately, I am a bit of a scaredy cat (pun intended) and I worry that anyone coming to the house is a “bad person”. So I want to nip the backs of their legs to chase them off.

Even more unfortunately, I thought a little boy (who, it turns out, only wanted to pat my head) was one of the bad guys and I snapped at him. My mum had hold of my collar because I had never been around small children before, so I didn’t actually bite him. Everyone got really upset about it anyway.

Other than that, I’m wonderful. I really don’t know what the fuss is about. Mum is worried because there aren’t any really good dog trainers here who deal with

aggressive behaviour

. Who knows what that means? She has been asking if I am a “ticking time bomb” – if you could see me with the family you too would wonder what the fuss is all about. She says she doesn’t want a dog she has to muzzle in public. What’s a muzzle? Can anyone help?

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Here is a photo of me, and some of my people.

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January in Zambia

BELATED HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I have just discovered that this entry never made it onto the blog, so here it is with a few amendments.

I must say, on my return from the UK the warmth is quite pleasant here in Lusaka, but we seem to be getting around the same amount of rain as the South of England (much of which was under water over the Christmas/New Year period). The difference is that in Zambia the rain comes in heavy and explosive downpours, carried here by dramatic thunderstorms (which, incidentally, still terrifies our seven-year-old border collie even after 17 months of living here). Thankfully, my roof is now ‘sort of’ fixed. It no longer pours in onto the bed, and the puddles in the dining room are now little ones, not the lake that stretched across the whole of one wall. How long it will take for the men to come back and finish the job is anyone’s guess.

The temperature today is around 23°C/73°F, which is bearable in my opinion. Partly cloudy, but now the sun is out again, just minutes after a terrific heavy shower passed through.

All this rain means that the growing season is also in full swing, as illustrated by the head-height grass growing in many areas by the sides of the roads. It doesn’t mean, of course, that my vegetable garden is abundant. So far, having planted a bed of pumpkins and a more recent bed of butternut squash, neither has yielded a single vegetable, despite growing into giant plants with lots of leaves and plenty of flowers. Advice please, gardeners. Lack of bees? Oh, and some similar looking plants have grown up from my compost pile (clearly not a very effective compost pile). (Note 31st March: these are butternut squash which has produced one squash so far.)

The green beans have been good, I have some lettuce to harvest as and when needed, but tomatoes are still very small plants with no flowers, let alone fruit. Carrots are pathetic little roots with not terribly impressive leaves. So I have lettuce and green beans. Hmm.

There are two avocado trees which last year were a big disappointment but I am going to try putting the fruit in paper bags to ripen this year. Maybe they will be delicious…they look amazing. And the lemon tree appears to have died completely. It will need to be removed. I am very sad about this, as I bought special citrus tree fertiliser especially last year to try to save it.

One last comment: I am embarrassed to admit how disproportionately jealous I am of colleagues’ vegetable gardens. I’m really not a very effective ‘Barbara’ after all.

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Kangaluwi: Proposed open pit mine in the Lower Zambezi National Park

I have neglected my Zambia blog lately, for  a myriad of reasons. Or should I say, excuses: busy at work; rainy season; no news on safaris or travel tips due to lack of recent travel within the country.  The list could go on.

I could cheat and direct you to read blogs about the Lower Zambezi by other writers such as Paul Steyn on the National Geographic website.   I could blog about my last visit to a safari camp, Potato Bush Camp in the Lower Zambezi.  Somehow, I have managed to miss writing about it, and it was arguably the best safari we have been on so far. Don’t worry, I still plan to share this with you. Those fellas at the top of the post were from our first visit to the Lower Zambezi.   Here is a little sneak preview from our last trip, but don’t worry: it wasn’t all elephants.  SONY DSC

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An open cast mine. Photo copyright Wikimedia Commons
Borrowed from Africa Geographic website

However, before I launch into the joys of our last safari (and you will have to wait another day to hear all about that!),  I want to express my utter despair at the prospect of an open-pit copper mine being allowed in the Lower Zambezi National Park.  It could end up looking  something like this one.

In spite of rejection of this proposal back in September 2012 by ZEMA (Zambia Environmental Management Agency), the government’s Head of Ministry of Lands,  National Resources and Environmental Protection,  has overturned the earlier ruling which will allow an Australian company (operating under the name Zambezi Resources) to mine for copper in the middle of a National Park.  Another blog by Paul Steyn outlines the issues on the National Geographic website.  The site of the proposed mine is outlined in red below.

site of mine

According to Lusaka Times, Zambezi Resources were granted a conditional 25-year licence to mine in the area marked, an area of 245 square kilometres (or 409,200 hectares).   This conditional licence was issued in March 2011 on a subject to fulfilling certain conditions on an EIS (Environmental Impact Survey).  Some of conditions were not met, specifically that of taking adequate measures to protect the environment;  ZEMA rejected the proposal.  After the inevitable appeal by Zambezi Resources, the Minister of Land, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection over-ruled their decision and approved the request in January 2014.

An injunction was successfully filed with the Zambian High Court on 31st January 2014; Zambezi Resources actively refute this claim:

It was reported on a small number of websites that an injunction was granted in Zambia on Friday 31
January 2014, effectively halting any work at site. The Company has extensively investigated this
matter and is pleased to advise that there is nothing to substantiate the claim that an injunction was
granted. (www.zambiaresources.com)

See the original document and their Zambia-targeted press release here.  

Nevertheless, it seems an injunction was indeed filed.  We await the outcome of this injunction; according to the Wall Street Journal, the hearing is scheduled for February 18th: next Tuesday.  I suspect Zambian Resources will not take a further rejection lying down.

There is a protest site on Facebook, and a petition requesting signatures at Avaaz.org in an attempt to block the company from opening this mine. By all means, if you find the argument against the proposal convincing, please stop by these sites and add your voice.

 I found a blog on the Africa Geographic website, also written by Paul Steyn and published in September 2012 which gives an interesting perspective on the company outsourced to complete the Environmental Impact Assessment.  

The issue raises many questions: can a copper mine be truly ‘green’?  What impact will this project have on wildlife, local families, water sources, pollution, tourism? Why is this project being supported by some of the locals, ‘farmers’ and others? What are their expectations and are they realistic? How many jobs can Zambezi Resources honestly promise will be granted to local Zambian people? If Zambezi Resources did not meet the original conditions imposed by ZEMA, and are allowed to proceed, how can Zambia guarantee they will meet their environmental responsibilities? The methods of copper mining are not traditionally a low key, environmentally friendly affair.

Furthermore, a look at pollution at current and historic mining sites in Zambia does not paint an attractive picture: the town of Kabwe has been highly polluted for years after a history of lead mining, this year Mufulira residents are concerned over sulphur dioxide emissions (see Zambia Daily Mail).  The concerns for the environment as well as the health of local residents is not one that should be overlooked.

Time will tell if the ‘Powers That Be’ in Zambia will come to their senses and choose to protect this very treasured natural park as well as the health of their citizens.  Meanwhile let me share a little piece of it with you.

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Lower Zambezi Valley
Photo courtesy of Africa Geographic

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CrossFit Zambia style

For anyone expecting a blog on Zambia, I am afraid this one might disappoint. I am going to be a bit self-indulgent today and discuss fitness.

I have decided to be ever so modern and hip, I have just joined my brand new local CrossFit box, named CrossFit Amaka. As far as I am aware, it is the first ever CrossFit box in Zambia (let alone Lusaka). The induction session (Base Camp) was on Saturday, and my first ‘official’ WOD (Workout Of the Day for you non-CrossFitters out there) was this morning.

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Not me!

Not me!

On waking this morning, I thought my biggest problem was going to be my quads. Standing up and sitting down were very real challenges for me on Sunday. I felt a bit tight this morning but nothing tooooo unbearable. I foolishly thought I would work through it.

However, the WOD today focused on arms and upper body. I can’t remember the terminology, I think the pain has affected my brain. But let’s just say that washing my hair after the workout was more work than I’ve ever noticed before, I can’t comfortably raise my arms above elbow level, and driving to work, I was just glad it was mostly a straight road.

This is all just one hour after the class. What on EARTH am I going to do tomorrow?!!! I’ll tell you what – another WOD!

Just by the way, as I embark on this journey, I notice an article in Sunday’s Guardian: oh dear.  This one from July 2013 was a little more positive.

In for a penny…

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Weekend Jail

This article was in this morning’s paper.

So here’s the latest on Drink Driving laws here in Zambia. The solution, you see, is to have the convicted drunk drivers to surrender themselves every weekend to jail, released after sundown on Sunday night.

This system suggests

a) Drunk drivers aren’t really that guilty

b) They will probably be very happy to spend every weekend in jail, and will surrender themselves promptly at 18:30 on a Friday night… Perhaps after work? (Or after a pint or three first, you know how it is…)

c) Drunk Drivers don’t need rehabilitation

d) They will not re-offend during the week, everyone saves their binge drinking until Friday nights, right?

e) If the offenders don’t comply with the law, Zambia has a very good infrastructure and system to find these people and ensure they follow the conditions of their sentence.

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