“Malaria kills around 800,000 people a year. After every 30 seconds, a child dies in Africa,” said Dr. Morris Y. Harris during a Malaria Awareness Campaign in Tubmanburg, Bomi County. The campaign is an ongoing pilot project of the Malaria Program of the Lutheran Church in Liberia (LCL), in four highly malaria infected communities of the county, namely, Vai Town, Kondeh, Maher and Managbokai.
Quoting the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Harris, the Director of Malaria Program of the LCL, said malaria is a “killer disease,” calling it the main cause of death and a major threat to children and pregnant women.
The LCL’s Malaria Program boss said that out of over 15 different sicknesses treated in Out Patient Departments (OPD) across the country, malaria constituted 42% – meaning that about half of the population or over 1 million people are infected with malaria annually.
Dr. Harris said about 90 % of all malaria cases are in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and North America while reemphasizing that children under the age of five and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the disease.
He pointed out that most people survive a bout of malaria after a 10 to 20 day illness, but it is important to spot the symptoms early.
Some of the early symptoms, said Dr. Harris, are headache, aching muscles, weakness or lack of energy and fever, but he cautioned that not every fever is malaria therefore, a patient should be diagnosed before treatment.
Another classic sign of the infection is high fever during the evening hours, followed by chills a few hours later.
“This cycle is repeated between two to four days,” he said.
Dr. Harris told his audience that malaria is a common disease which causes death that many people in communities attribute to witchcraft.
He said the spread of the disease can be reduced by continuously cleaning the environment or community which would cut down the mosquito population, for example, by filling ditches where mosquitoes breed.
Dr. Harris also told the communities to always sleep under insecticide treated bed nets which should be washed once every three months with bathing soap and hung to dry in a shade.
Dr. Harris recommended to the Liberian government to punish those who cut and sell the freely distributed insecticide bed nets into washing sapo and fishing nets.
He said the punishment for those who misuse bed nets must be severe to serve as a deterrent to would-be violators.
“Malaria is not common and it’s a complex disease – so it’s better it is prevented than to be cured of it,” Dr. Harris said.
Children from Kondeh Hill Community performed two dramas to portray the “effect and preventive measure of malaria.”
The leaders of the four communities in separate remarks thanked the LCL, Dr. Harris and Ms. Susan Larmouth, the Supervisor of Region 1 of the Malaria Program, for their efforts in sensitizing them against the deadly malaria disease.
Mr. Sumo Jallah of Vai Town, Zinnah Ash of Kondeh, Varney Boakai of Managbokai and Town Chief Lasanna Morris expressed appreciation and recounted their success stories that have reduced malaria deaths since LCL began its malaria awareness in the county.
Students B. Kemokai Feika of the Bomi Junior High School and Jerome Deh of the Forestry Institute also hailed the LCL Malaria Program.
Ms. Larmouth told journalists that since 2014, the LCL Malaria Program has been working with nine student volunteers from each community to weekly sensitize the people on the preventive method of malaria hence the awareness program, which began with a parade at the United Brothers Band through the principal streets of the county.
She boasted that since the LCL’s Malaria Awareness Program began in the county, the infection rate has reduced by half, including the death rate.
The Tubmanburg City Inspector, Mr. Varney E.K. McKeever, pledged the county’s support to the LCL’s Malaria Program and promised to ensure the city is cleaned to reduce the spread of the disease in the county while Rev. Edward K. Tokpa, the Resident Pastor of the LCL in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties, pledged to “spread the preventive word.”
The representative from the County Health Team, Abraham B. Cassell hailed the malaria campaign, indicating that “it’s a big help” to them.