Parents and Witch Doctors can be Deadly


buttonApril 25th 2008 is World Malaria Day. So, to mark the occasion, we have this little gem from the Independent:

“The treasures hidden deep in the jungles of Sierra Leone are powerful. Potions cooked up from bits of bark in bubbling vats genuinely have healing properties. But they can also kill, and this is why medical charities are going into battle with the witch doctors of the west African country. Take malaria, which kills more than a million people every year – more than 90 per cent of them in Africa. Today, World Malaria Day, nearly 3,000 children will die. On average, the impact of the illness slows economic growth rates by more than a percentage point: another thing that Sierra Leone, the world’s least-developed country, could do without.”

The problem is that malaria medications can be expensive and sometimes useless (because of drug resistance) and that health clinics in Africa are few and far between. So what do you do when you or your children get it? My new age colleagues (as in “people used to be able to cure everything with natural remedies before the pharmaceutical industry ruined everything” kind of people) notwithstanding, these herbal bush remedies can be deadly.

“MSF is training villagers to give speedy, free malaria tests and treatment in 200 villages across the south of the country. Even in the hot, hilly capital Freetown, there are painted sheets stretched across roadsides depicting a range of illnesses that native doctors can “treat”– from malaria to being attacked by a winged gremlin. Their pharmacies include potions, leaves, bits of bark and tree. “We have so many of these quacks and they don’t know the job properly,” said one villager volunteering with the MSF scheme.”

How about everybody coughs up some money for bed nets to poor people? That would be a good idea. It is cheap and it eliminates 90% of cases of malaria when used properly.

Ok, we’re done with quacks, now, let me get to the deadly stupidity of parents, this time, via the BBC,

“A new vaccine for girls to prevent cervical cancer was rejected by 20% of parents during a trial, a study says. The jab, being rolled out in the UK this year, has proved controversial as it works by making girls immune to a sexually transmitted infection. Most parents did not give reasons for refusing, although a tiny number cited fears about promoting sexual behaviour. The Manchester University researchers said increased publicity about the benefits would allay fears.”

And here I thought that kind of stupidity was limited to religious nuts and conservatives here. At least we were spared the anti-vaccination argument, that’s something. When hundreds of lives could be saved every year, there is no discussion. Vaccination should be mandatory, no discussion, no exceptions.

2 thoughts on “Parents and Witch Doctors can be Deadly

  1. Great strides have been made in many places in the fight against malaria, a disease that kills a million people, most of them children, every year. That’s what World Malaria Day is all about. It draws attention to the many successful ways the war against malaria is being waged, mainly through the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets and other relatively low-tech preventive measures. Unfortunately, children in the Democratic Republic of Congo remain highly vulnerable.

    According to the World Health Organization, less than 1% of DRC children under five years of age sleep under protective nets. This results in most of them suffering six to ten malaria-related fever incidents per year. The disease also accounts for 45% of childhood mortality, which overall runs to 20%. In short, malaria kills nearly one in ten children in the Congo every year.

    In Heart of Diamonds, my novel of the Congo, I explore how continuous armed conflict in the country is responsible for many of these deaths. Medical supplies can’t be distributed when roads, railroads, and airstrips have been destroyed. Treatment can’t be delivered by medical personnel who have been chased from their clinics and hospitals. People driven from their homes, plagued by malnutrition, inadequate shelter, and lack of sanitary facilities are weak and less capable of warding off disease. War creates a breeding ground for death by malaria just as surely as swamps full of stagnant water breed anopheles mosquitoes.

    Although the intensity of conflict has decreased since the truce of 2003 and democratic elections of 2006, millions of displaced persons still struggle to survive and hot spots remain in the eastern and western provinces. Collapsed infrastructure has severely weakened the health system in the DRC, and the strengthening process is a slow one.

    The DRC, unfortunately, has little to celebrate this World Malaria Day.

  2. Thanks for this wonderful contribution, Dave. Is your novel based on personal experience in the Congo?

    And you are absolutely correct, the Congo is still very much a mess in many respects. This saddens me as this part of Africa is very dear to my heart although I am more familiar with the Zambia / Botswana region (more stable politically but still plagued by malaria as well).

    I look forward to reading your novel!

    Thanks for dropping by.

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