by William Snow
We all have at least one thing in common: we all have parents! And July 23rd was National Parents’ Day, so at Nothing But Nets, we want to show love to the hardworking parents around the world who strive to create a better life for their children.
But as long as malaria remains, we have more work to do. The deadly disease still claims the life of a child every 2 minutes, and weakens countless others every day.
Here are five ways malaria takes a toll on parents:
1. When children fall ill with malaria, parents have to stay home from work to take care of them. For example, take Pamela, who lives at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. When her son Elihuruma was a young boy, she had to rush him to the hospital many times when he was weak from fevers caused by malaria.
This took her away from her other tasks, like tending to her family’s chickens and goats. She had less time to make money for her family or tend to them. Then, a health worker gave her an insecticide-treated bed net. Now Pamela, her husband, and her children sleep beneath nets, where they are protected from malaria.
Now, Elihuruma sings in the children’s choir and doesn’t miss a day of school. And Pamela is strong enough to tend the family’s livestock. A simple net changed her family’s future.
2. Pregnant women are most at risk of malaria. According to the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, malaria cases during pregnancy can increase neonatal mortality rates by as much as 61%. Sick mothers cannot properly take care of their bodies and raise healthy babies. And newborn babies have much better chances of survival when their mothers are strong and healthy.
3. Children suffering from malaria can’t attend school. Malaria forces children to miss school when they’re ill with malaria, but also when they have to take care of a sibling who has gotten sick. Healthy children get to go to school more often and learn more efficiently, ultimately impacting their ability to earn a living, contribute to their families and to their community.
It’s important for every parent to feel their child has a choice to attend school, be healthy, and thrive. For moms and dads who don’t have access to a bed net, every night is nerve wracking. If a malaria-carrying mosquito bites a child overnight, they could miss days, weeks, or even months of school.
4. The threat of malaria worries parents sick. Countless parents at refugee camps we’ve visited tell us that they fear for their children, who are vulnerable to the disease, while others tell us they could only sleep in peace once their children were covered by bed nets at night.
Maria Serugendo was robbed of that peace when her son, Timothy, was bitten by a mosquito and suffered a case of malaria so severe that he lost much of his vision, leaving him unable to read. The last thing a refugee parent should have to worry about after fleeing their home – or any parent anywhere – is the threat of a mosquito bite.
5. No parent should have to endure the loss of a child. Today, malaria still takes a child’s life every two minutes. That means that every two minutes, a parent must confront the ultimate grief because of malaria – even though this disease is treatable and preventable. We’ve come a long way since 2010, when a child died every 30 seconds from the disease. But we must maintain focus on the fight to end malaria for good.
If we can defeat malaria for good, then parents everywhere will get a greater chance to experience the reward of building a better life for their children.