Apr 252019

Today is World Malaria Day, an international observance highlighting global efforts to control malaria. Globally, 3.3 billion people in 106 countries are at risk of malaria. In 2012, malaria caused an estimated 627,000 deaths, mostly among African children. Asia, Latin America, and to a lesser extent the Middle East and parts of Europe are also affected.

World Malaria Day grew out of the efforts taking place across the African continent to commemorate Africa Malaria Day. According to the most recent World Malaria Report, the global tally of malaria reached 429,000 malaria deaths and 212 million new cases in 2015. The rate of new malaria cases fell by 21% globally between 2010 and 2015, and malaria death rates fell by 29% in the same period. In sub-Saharan Africa, case incidence and death rates fell by 21% and 31%, respectively.

World Malaria Day was established in May 2007 by the 60th session of the World Health Assembly, WHO’s decision-making body. The day was established to provide “education and understanding of malaria” and spread information on “year-long intensified implementation of national malaria-control strategies, including community-based activities for malaria prevention and treatment in endemic areas.” Prior to the establishment of World Malaria Day, Africa Malaria Day was held on April 25. Africa Malaria Day began in 2001, one year after the historic Abuja Declaration was signed by 44 malaria-endemic countries at the African Summit on Malaria.

World Malaria Day allows for corporations (such as ExxonMobil), multinational organizations (such as Malaria No More) and grassroots organizations (such as Mosquitoes Suck Tour) globally to work together to bring awareness to malaria and advocate for policy changes.

The theme for World Malaria Day 2019 is “Zero Malaria Starts With Me” which highlights, among other things, the fact that a malaria vaccine is being introduced this year in several African countries, beginning with Malawi: http://time.com/5577085/malawi-malaria-vaccine/ Malaria is caused by a parasite injected into the bloodstream by mosquitoes. Thus, prevention protocols can take many forms.  You can, for example, try to eliminate standing water where mosquitoes breed, use insecticides, sleep under mosquito netting, or use insect repellent to keep from being bitten. There are also various medications that have been around for decades that help prevent contracting malaria, but none is 100% effective. Many have unpleasant side effects, have to be started before visiting malarial areas, and some have to be continued for weeks after leaving affected regions.

The new malaria vaccine, approved in 2015 is a huge step forward. Admittedly it is only 30% effective, but 30% is much better than 0%, especially when it is children under 5 years old who are likely to die should they contract malaria.  Thus, the focus in 2019 is ensuring that the vaccine is widely publicized so that as many people as possible can avail themselves of it.

Since Malawi is the center of the vaccination effort this year, let’s think about Malawi cuisine. This video shows how to make the staple, nsima, a cassava porridge, plus boiled spicy greens, and meat:

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