World Malaria Day: Causes and protection

by ShelterBox | @ShelterBox | ShelterBox
Thursday, 24 April 2014 13:55 GMT

SRI LANKA. 16 JUN 2009. An estimated 150,000 people were displaced as a result of the civil war being fought in Sri Lanka. After initial assessments ShelterBox sent aid to the region, including mosquito nets. (Mike Greenslade/ShelterBox)

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* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

World Malaria Day is marked across the globe on 25 April to acknowledge the remarkable progress that the global development community has made in combatting Malaria. But the fight against this terrible disease continues.

Malaria causes an estimated 627,000 people to lose their lives every year, mainly children under five years of age in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2013, 97 countries had an ongoing malaria transmission.

Parasites cause the life-threatening disease, which are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes that bite mainly between dusk and dawn.

Transmission is more intense in places where the mosquito prefers to bite humans rather than other animals and where the mosquito lifespan is longer. In the latter case, the parasite has time to complete its development inside the mosquito. For example, the long lifespan and strong human-biting habit of the African vector species is the main reason why about 90% of the world's malaria deaths are in Africa.

Climatic conditions may affect the number and survival of mosquitoes, such as rainfall patterns, temperature and humidity. In many places, transmission is seasonal, with the peak during and just after the rainy season, which is why they can be rife during storms and flooding. Malaria epidemics can occur when climate and other conditions suddenly favour transmission in areas where people have little or no immunity to malaria. They can also occur when people with low immunity move into areas with intense malaria transmission, for instance to find work, or as refugees.

Human immunity is another important factor, especially among adults in areas of moderate or intense transmission conditions. Partial immunity is developed over years of exposure, and while it never provides complete protection, it does reduce the risk that malaria infection will cause severe disease. For this reason, most malaria deaths in Africa occur in young children, whereas in areas with less transmission and low immunity, all age groups are at risk.

Malaria is preventable and curable

Malaria is preventable and curable. Increased malaria prevention and control measures are dramatically reducing the malaria burden in many places such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

‘In areas where protection is needed, ShelterBox provides Olyset Nets, an award winning long-lasting insecticidal net that uses hybrid polymer and controlled insecticide release technology to repel, kill and prevent mosquitos from biting for up to five years,’ said ShelterBox Supply Chain Manager Shane Revill.

‘Put more simply, the net works to protect people sleeping under the Olyset Nets from mosquitos as liquid permethrin slowly releases into polyethylene fibres, a tough material and substantial physical barrier.’

Mosquito nets help protect and offer comfort

The contact with the insecticide causes mosquitoes to leave without taking a blood meal and cause them to be knockdown or die. Families affected by disaster or humanitarian crisis are not only protected but also have a greater level of comfort. The Olyset Net has protected nearly 800 million people since it received the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation in 2001.

ShelterBox tents can also protect people against mosquito bites and disease, an example being in Zimbabwe recently.

‘ShelterBox tents themselves are mosquito nets and it's really important to emphasise this to people who will be living in the tent,’ said Response Team member Phil Wheeler who was overseeing distributions in Zimbabwe, where Malaria is rife. ‘The inner door is netted and the windows are also netted. At first many people don't realise this feature of the tent, but the moment they learn that they can better protect their children is often the same moment that parents express their most admiration for their new home.

‘Sense of security and relief’

‘Malaria has been prevalent in Chingwizi camp, and with the dry season approaching, malaria cases increase. This means that countless families will be much safer in ShelterBox tents than anywhere else in the camp, and our equipment will help contain the spread of the disease. As someone who has had malaria, I know full well the sense of security and relief that being in a net brings every night.’