Friday 5 August 2011

My heritage of growing up overseas. Part 1: Respect for malaria

Sometimes things happen in your life that leave a lasting impression on you. When I was a teenager in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe I attended a funeral of a mother of friends of mine. I was probably about 15 years old at the time. The mother of this Swedish family of four children died of malaria in Zimbabwe. It was such a sad occasion. There were tears everywhere. Maybe it remains imprinted in my memory because I come from a family of four kids too. Maybe I thought it could have happened to me too. The children did not only lose their mother, they returned back to Sweden and had to say goodbye to all their friends. They left their home, their school, their playmates and their memories in Africa. So tragic. The worst part of it all is that malaria is and was at that time a curable disease. Since then I have a deep respect for malaria. I did some research on malaria and my respect only increased. Recently Wordgeyser wrote a post preparing for the worst: the death of a spouse overseas. You know these things do happen. This is a real world we live in. So here comes more about my heritage: the deep respect for malaria.

Malaria is caused by a parasite of the genius plasmodium. It is spread from person to person by the bites of infected mosquitoes.

Here are 10 facts about malaria:
  1. About 3.3 billion people - half of the world's population - are at risk of malaria.
  2. It leads to approximately 1 million deaths every year.
  3. 1 in every 5 childhood deaths in Africa is due to malaria.
  4. Every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria in Africa. So while you were reading this list another child just died in Africa due to malaria.
  5. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are two basic elements of malaria control.
  6. If not treated with effective medicines malaria can often be fatal.
  7. Pregnant women are at high risk not only of dying from the complications of severe malaria, but also spontaneous abortion, premature delivery or stillbirth. 
  8. Malaria is also a cause of severe maternal anaemia and is responsible for about one third of preventable low birth weight babies.  
  9. Long-lasting insecticidal nets can be used to provide protection to risk groups, especially young children and pregnant women in high transmission areas.
  10. Malaria is preventable and curable.
This is information from the World Health Organisation (WHO). There is a list available famous people who died of malaria. At the expat Info desk I discovered that they recently warned expats that malaria is on the rise. The advice is the same for all travelers - you must take anti-mosquito precautions and medication to keep safe. We in the west have everything so well organized and I think we forget the force of nature, and the suddenness of disease and death. Here are the malaria symptoms and more information about diagnosis. Recently two Dutch tourists died of malaria which they caught in Gambia. They did not take anti-malaria medication. Here is an article by the BBC Malaria: a major global killer.

Please join the "have respect for malaria club". What is your experience with malaria? Do you have advice for others on this subject. Please share your experience or your advice with us.


  1. Haha- Ook bij mij is dat respect ingebakken. Zo heeft het mij jaren geduurd voordat ik 's niet panisch reageerde op een mug (in Nl bv).

  2. Dank je wel voor je opmerking. Fijn dat het herkenbaar is. Zo zie je maar dat opgroeien in het buitenland invloed kan hebben op veel verschillende dingen bv je reactie op een mug. Zo was ik in het begin ook bang voor (bijtende) honden: een erfenis uit de tijd in Zimbabwe, maar daar gaat het een andere keer over.

    For the English reader: growing up overseas can even result in panicking when seeing a mosquito (in the Netherlands).