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Once Bitten: World Malaria Day 2011

The fever, chills, exhaustion, sweating, vomiting and headache come in waves that build and build, then recede for a while until they come back.

It’s malaria, and little Rose is racked with it yet again. Her mother wonders: Will she live through it this time? It’s been only two weeks since the last bout. How many episodes of the deadly disease can the 5-year-old take?

 Photo of Rose, a 5-year-old girl from Zambia, smiling under a mosquito net
 Rose, a 5-year-old girl from Zambia, sleeps under a mosquito net, safe from malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

World Malaria Day, April 25, highlights the sad fact that a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, 30 sub-Saharan African countries and five Asian countries together account for 98 percent of the world’s deaths from malaria.

In Zambia, where Rose lives, it’s the leading cause of death for children under 5. But this time, we can tell you that Rose won’t add to that statistic. In fact, she may have had her last case of malaria, because ChildFund reached her community with some basic education about prevention and symptoms of this curable disease.

Prevention is a fairly simple matter: Mosquitoes, which are the vector for the disease, breed in water. Families are encouraged to eliminate sources of standing water from their environments. Insecticide-treated bed nets keep mosquitoes away from children and families as they sleep, and spraying homes also helps.

A child dies from malaria every 30 seconds, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

The worldwide celebration April 25 also highlights good news: According to the U.N., the worldwide push in anti-malaria efforts between 2008 and 2010 "resulted in the provision of enough insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) to protect more than 578 million people at risk in sub-Saharan Africa," where malaria cases, admissions and deaths have dropped by more than 50 percent. Similar declines in cases have occurred in malaria-endemic countries around the world.

But, the U.N. also reports, international fundraising efforts seem to have plateaued. And there have been resurgences in some areas.

One of the U.N,’s Millennium Development Goals is to end malaria deaths by 2015. While lives are being saved, there is still far to go, and too many children still suffer as Rose did.

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