Malaria accounts for 1 in 5 of all childhood deaths in Africa. My neighbor has gotten malaria. The local health center mainly deals in malaria treatment and maternal care. You can buy (real and counterfeit) malaria drugs from women with trays on their heads at the market. Literally everyone in my village at least knows someone who has been sick with malaria, or died from it.
Well, the night of my 26th birthday I learned first hand how awful malaria is. Just 27 hours into year 26 on earth, I woke up with horrible chills racking my body. At first I was hopeful, after all, it was rainy and my fan was on, but a hand to my forehead quickly made me realize that it was a fever and chills taking over. After pulling on any clothes I could find right over my pajamas, I took my temperature- 102.8. Crap. I figured there wasn't a whole lot the med unit could do at 3 am, and I didn't want to unlock my door and go outside to get the reception to call anyway, so I just tried to go back to sleep.
At 6am I took my temperature again- 104.8 and called. They told me to do a rapid test for malaria and call back. With positive results and fever that high they said for me to come down to Lome a soon as possible and to take the first round of Coartem. I crawled back in bed, a heavy rain had started that would keep me from finding a car down anyway and I couldn't begin the fathom trying to pack clothes- standing up was a trial in itself.
After a while I was able to throw some things into a bag and stumble into the covered hallway in front of my house. The apprentices and my host mom saw me there, sitting on the bench with my head in my heads dripping with sweat. They rushed over, and sat with me until my host dad could come over and help me find a car to Lome.
I was lucky that the car ride to Lome was uneventful, and I made it down in decent time. I met with the PC nurse, Aurelia as soon as I got to the PC office, where she had me eat a little, take more medicine and head to bed. Over the next 3 days I slowly got better with the excellent care of Peace Corps, our medstaff and the comforts of the Peace Corps office in Lome.
However, I caught the malaria early, had access to excellent and competent health care and got to recover in the comfort of Lome and Peace Corps.
For most Togolese people, malaria means the lose of a loved one, long waits at the local dispensaire or health clinic, and recovering at home in the heat without running water or electric.
I recently attended a weekend Malaria training held by Peace Corps in conjunction with the bed net distribution that will be happening in the next few months by the Togolese Government. There we learned about different activities we can do in village such as a bed net fair to teach about repair, cleaning and proper ways to hang it. Bed nets are one of the most effective ways to prevent malaria as the mosquitoes who carry malaria are active during the night.
Malaria remains one of the biggest issues in West Africa which is why the effort to eradicate malaria has become a main focus of West African Peace Corps Volunteers in health.
For more information about malaria check out http://stompoutmalaria.org/