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Zero malaria begins with me.

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Alex was really excited! His favourite uncle just arrived. He ran towards him, gave him a big hug and dragged him to the sofa.

“What do you have for me Uncle Tope?” Alex said, looking at him with bright eyes. Alex wasn’t referring to sweets or biscuits but a story. They both shared a special love for stories.

Uncle Tope leaned back in his typical story telling stance and began.

“One time, when I was a young boy, I was so sick that I couldn’t get out of bed. When my dad got home, he came straight to my room and started yelling. “Get up my friend! Are you the first person to have malaria? I said get up…”

Because dad was old school and very tough, he believed that the true test of a man was being able to keep things inside, no matter what. He considered lying down when sick to be a sign of weakness.

“Get up! Be a man!” he shouted again.

I truly, desperately wanted to get up but was just too weak to move.

Eventually, I couldn’t even hear him because I was drifting in and out of consciousness. It was like I was floating, but not in a good way.

Mum stood by silently at first but then decided to intervene.

“Baba Jimi, let me help him.” she said, moving towards me as fast as her large pregnant belly allowed.

“I knew it! You will spoil this children! You cannot let a father discipline his children right?”

She ignored his tantrum, re-tying her wrapper around her chest, and after a struggle to bend down, she placed her hand on my head. Immediately, she jerked it away.

“Baba Jimi, this boy is burning!” she cried out.

“And so what? Common malaria? Ordinary malaria? Nonsense!”

“Please take him to the hospital.” Mum said with tears streaming down her face, her arms closely wrapped around her as though she was consoling herself. Mum was a strong woman that was usually able to accommodate Dad’s excesses but on rare occasions she cried. And though Dad was tough, that one thing had the power to make him melt: mum’s tears. It seemed to always signal to him that he had gone overboard.

woman crying when son was sick with malaria
Photo by Mateus Souza from Pexels

Those precious tears saved me that day.

Dad carried me in his old brown Peugeot car to the hospital that evening, just before the golden sun set, and he didn’t say a word all the way.

When we arrived the hospital, the health team asked questions, assessed me and ran tests. That confirmed everyone’s suspicions. It was malaria and I was going to be admitted because the malaria parasite count was high.

Dad was given an estimate of the admission bill and blurted out, “You want me to pay so much for ordinary malaria treatment?” He was clearly upset.

The doctor faced him squarely and said, “There is nothing ordinary about malaria. It kills thousands of people every year, even unborn children.”

Dad’s eyes misted with tears as he remembered the two pregnancies his wife lost. Could this have been the reason? He remembered that the health workers who came to talk to the community about preventing malaria told everyone to always clear the bushes and drainages around their houses because those were the places that mosquitoes loved to hide and multiply. While other people cleaned up their backyards and drainages, he scorned and was nonchalant. He could clearly visualize the broken paint buckets that were still in his backyard, half-filled with dirty water since the rains last week.

Mosquitoes flourish in bushes and stagnant drainages
Photo by Egor Kamelev from Pexels

Oh how his wife had begged him to repair the torn window nets of their house but because he was trying to save money, he didn’t. She had used pieces of cloth to plug the rent but it wasn’t efficient. Alas, penny wise, pound foolish, he was now going to spend up to three times the cost of net repairs on admission fees alone.

That day, Dad became a new man. He cleared the surroundings and fixed the window nets. Then he ensured his wife got tested for malaria and made sure she took the drugs that prevent malaria in pregnant women. Best of all, he became an advocate for eradicating malaria. He would always tell people that having a world free of malaria begins by each of us doing our part.”

“Thank you Uncle Tope, I loved the story.”

Further reading

Things to note about malaria

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20 thoughts on “Zero malaria begins with me.”

    1. It’s an interesting story. This has further refreshed my knowledge about the importance of malaria prevention.

      1. Opeyemi Babalola

        It is the way that you put the words together that thrills me and the part about rẹ-tying the wrapper made me laugh.

        I think we always underestimate the impact malaria has and to think it kills up to a million every year is heart breaking.

        Thanks for the subtle yet profound lessons.

        You are a star!

        1. Mercy Folayan

          Indeed, we underestimate the impact of malaria; on the individual, the health sector as well as the economic import.
          Thank you for this. I appreciate you.

  1. MICHAEL A. ADEYEMI

    Interesting story. Can the world ever become malaria-free especially in the developing countries? The government deliberately favours unplanned settlements. Refuse disposal systems are absent in many cities, towns an villages. Many people who are reeling under the burden of poverty cannot provide good drainage for themselves. The immediate environment of most residences is unkempt. Malaria, though deadly, is still regarded as common or ordinary disease in the rural areas. Once the Neem trees ” dogonyaro” are in the vicinity, self medication is the norm. I hope many more people will access superior knowledge and not remain penny wise and pound foolish.

    1. Mercy Folayan

      Technically speaking, anything is possible and the world can become malaria free. the political will or the lack thereof, of many leaders in the ‘developing’ countries is a huge contributor to where we are today.
      However if we continue to wait for them to get their act right, change may never come. This necessitates this call for everyone to have a “sense of ownership” and play their part. Even if the whole neighbourhood is a mess, if each person takes care of his own home and immediate surroundings, and can at least have good, well fitted window nets and insecticide treated nets, that alone can reduce the malaria burden by a little bit. That tiny bit may seem irrelevant at first but doing that little consistently, over time, will get amplified and go a long way. it seems ambitious to eradicate malaria but it is possible as several countries have shown.

      Concerning the use of dongoyaro (Neem), I believe that has helped a great deal but there are still thousands that suffer from severe complications of malaria when the parasite load is very high.
      As we hope in God, we must indeed strive to play our part.
      Thank you for this engaging comment sir.

  2. Most people in this part of the world definitely have a Malaria story or experience…can this scourge really be eradicated?Let’s start with prevention first then maybe we can step up to wiping in out🤷🏻‍♀️.Beautiful piece!

    1. Mercy Folayan

      Prevention is really the first step. Malaria can be eradicated if everyone is willing to play their part. Together we win. Thank you ma.

  3. I enjoy and liked this story, so educative.
    If everyone will do one bit of clearing the bushes around his house or compound, making sure no dirty water around his house or in the drainage as we have in this our country then bit by bit we will get there.
    Well done.

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