ADVANCE EQUITY. BUILD RESILIENCE. END MALARIA.
Across the globe, 25th of April of every year has been high marked as the world malaria day. This was designed to foster awareness on the need for continued investment and sustained commitment for malaria prevention and control. The disease burden differs across regions of the world and the need to find measures towards the reduction is on the increase.
In Africa, of the four malaria parasites known that affect Humans, Plasmodium falciparum is more notable. The malaria parasite enters the human bloodstream through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito that most often operates at night.
According to the world health organization, “Malaria is one of the world’s leading causes of neuro-disability, mortality among infants, young children, pregnant women in developing countries most especially in Africa. It is estimated that half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria with an average rate of 250 million cases every year and 627 000 malaria-related deaths in 85 countries.
Cerebral malaria is the most severe neurological manifestation of severe malaria. With an incidence of 1,120/100,000/year in the endemic areas of Africa, children in this region bear the brunt with symptom ranging from Speech and language impairment, Cognitive sequelae, Behavior and neuro-psychiatric disorders, Epilepsy and other native form of disabilities.
Despite this open reality about malaria, the susceptibility pattern varies from one person to another based on socio-economic indices, people living with disabilities are more highly successible than other demography. Today, there is no exact data that depicts the number of people with disabilities that are dying in developing countries due to malaria.
The correlation between malaria, poverty and disability have been spelled in several research findings. In most developing economies like Nigeria, people with a disability constitute an impoverished marginalized group, characterized by lack of access to quality public health care systems, education, and other social services that would ideally support and protect such people from endemic cases of malaria.
The concept of disability covers impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions due to a problem in the body function or structure. This serves as a limiting constraint to individuals from performing a task or an action that could improve their standard of living.
Economically, most people living with disabilities are financially excluded and do not have access to financial products and services that could save them from poverty. Due to this reality, people with a disability in developing countries are classified among the poorest of the poor in the society living in rural areas with very remote lifestyles.
The “evil circle of poverty” as discussed occurs when poverty generates disability, and disability generates and keeps people in poverty respectively.
All these social economic attributes constitute so much to their overall susceptibility pattern to Malaria. Many a time, the episode could be worsened by underlying impairment and disability which reduces the chance of survival or recuperating like every of their counterparts.
It is also important to say that the female gender lead economies ( single mothers, widows, teenage girls) of the people living with disability suffer double marginalization in these bitter narratives.
The flu-like symptoms that appear 9-14 days after an infectious mosquito bite comes with prodoma symptoms that include headache, fatigue, aches in muscles and joints, fever, chills, vomiting and diarrhea. At a more severe case if not managed can quickly progress lead to death.
It becomes then sacrossant on a day like this to examine holistically malaria using disability lense as government, institutions, private sectors, stakeholders to foster an inclusive approach in prevention and control.
Malaria-specific programmes that focuses on prevalence and incidence, prevention, treatment, mortality, and survival should be inclusive enough to foster disability rights. Across mainstream women’s groups, women living with disability should not be neglected in creating a better narrative of a preventable malaria even as the conversation ticks towards malaria vaccine.
Getting it right, Governmental agencies and health institutions must be on alert to improve the economic life of people with disabilities, this social economic remedy could be a first layer dosage vaccination for PWDs most especially in developing economies.