The Center for Disease Control defines malaria as a disease caused by a parasite that is carried by the mosquito insect. Over one million people die every year from malaria, the majority of them being children from Saharan Africa. Malaria Site reports that over centuries, the disease has had a greater impact on human lives than wars.
During times that the disease has ravaged a region, it has had a crushing effect on economic progress, not to mention social, educational and political relationships and arenas. Today the disease impacts people living in more than 100 countries. To help focus on a medicinal cure and insure that those who have contracted the illness are not overlooked, April 25 has been declared World Malaria Day.
Malaria’s Venomous Root
The word malaria stems from the Italian words “mala” and “aria”. Together the words mean “bad air”. From the start, the viscous fevers suffered by persons who contracted the disease put fear in humans. During its early years, malaria hit Italy, particularly its shoreside areas, hard. Some historians suggest that the original parasites that caused the disease existed as long as half a billion years ago. Advances in agriculture and warmer climates, especially after the Ice Age, may be responsible for the advent of malaria in humans, events that date back 10,000 years.
Ancient writers and leaders who have created books that directly focus on malaria include Dante, Hippocrates and Celsus. Other more modern day writers who have written books that mention malaria include William Shakespeare, Homer, Stendhal and Denise Turney.
Effective Malaria Preventive Measures
After years of studying the disease, successful preventive measures have been discovered. Progressive measures include using bednets in areas heavily populated by mosquitoes like swamps and rivers and incorporating insecticides into regular crop and air defense mechanisms. Anti-malarial drugs have also shown to be effective against the contraction and spread of the disease.
Scientists such as Paul Hermann Muller, Giovanni Maria Lancisi and Giovanni Rasori have studied the disease and helped to find effective measures that treat against the disease and even encourage prevention. Rasori suffered from high fevers associated with the disease himself. He was one of the scientists who expressed the thought that malaria was caused by parasites. Lancisi studied and reported the impact of malaria upon the brain. Muller helped to invent one of the first insecticides that help to prevent and control the spread of the fever-inducing disease.
A Young Girl’s Story
Mulukan was only six years old when she experienced the full blown force of malarial. She was standing next to a group of women and men, all gaunt from the effects of food deprivation, patiently watching them return her mother’s body to the earth. Her mother, the only living relative Mulukan had left, had recently died due to malaria’s heavy, relentless blow. Not yet certain as to what death was despite the fact that it had come and taken her father, brothers and older sisters years earlier, Mulukan committed to leaving the area and taking off on her own. Her resilience and tenacity are akin to those shown by Celie in Alice Walker’s book The Color Purple.
Mulukan’s story is told through the eyes of author Denise Turney in a book aptly titled Long Walk Up. Not only does the book portray the profound impact that malaria has upon a community and a nation, the fictionalized story goes to the heart of the young girl’s struggles to continue to live in a world that, at times, appears only hard and mean. Denise Turney’s Long Walk Up puts a face on malaria. It creates an honest portrayal of the disease and turns it into more than a huge statistic. Organizations such as Nothing But Nets, Malaria No More and PATH continue to step forward and do the work to bring relief and prevention from malaria to children like Long Walk Up’s Mulukan in East Africa and beyond.