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The BBC's Barnaby Phillips
"Chikina says that all her three children have malaria"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 25 April, 2000, 08:52 GMT 09:52 UK
Malaria: Keeping Africa poor
Children are most threatened by malaria
Children are at great risk from malaria
As African leaders meet to discuss tackling malaria, Barnaby Phillips looks at the impact of the disease in central Nigeria

Children, like 10-month-old Khadijat, are most at risk from malaria which is one of Africa's biggest killers.

About 90% of those who die from the disease are Africans and for her the suffering has only just begun.

Born into poverty in a small village in central Nigeria, she is already stricken with the disease that may plague her for years - malaria.

Khadijat: 10 month old malaria sufferer
Khadijat: 10-month-old malaria sufferer

Khadijat's mother, Chikina, says that all her three children have malaria.

In the village clinic, help is at hand for those who can afford it.

Today, Khadijat may not know it, but she is lucky.

Her family has scraped together some money for a dose of chloroquine.

The drug is subsidised, and has been sold for a pittance. Still, it is beyond the reach of many here.

The most effective way to avoid malaria is to avoid being bitten by the mosquito which carries the parasite.

Nurse demonstrates how to soak mosquito net in insecticide
A nurse demonstrates how to soak a mosquito net in insecticide

The village nurse demonstrates how to soak mosquito nets in insecticide.

The only problem is that each net costs the equivalent of $4 - money these women simply do not have.

This is not only a war against poverty, but a war against ignorance.

When malaria goes untreated, it kills.

If mothers reacted quicker to the first signs of disease, says community worker Rakiya Madaki, many lives would be saved.

Rakiya: Educates mothers about malaria
Rakiya: Educates mothers about malaria

"We educate them whenever they see some signs of changes in the baby they should rush down to the hospital so that we can attack it immediately, so that it won't become severe malaria," she says.

"We advise them whenever their baby is not feeling fine, its temperature changes, they should rush down to the hospital."

Just a few miles away in Nigeria's capital Abuja, in a bizarre publicity stunt, children have gathered under what is, officially, the world's biggest ever mosquito net

Even the president's wife has come along to have a look.

Back in the village, things are likely to get worse, at least in the short-term.

Soon the rains will begin, and water will collect in the gullies and depressions which surround the huts.

The mosquitoes breed in the water.

Poverty and malaria

Malaria keeps children away from school. It stops their parents from getting out into the fields, to harvest the crops and tend to the animals. In short, malaria keeps African nations poor

Andy Seale, WHO

However, poverty does not only prevent villagers from fighting malaria.

The disease itself holds Africans back, and, says Andy Seale of the World Health Organisation, stops development.

"Malaria keeps children away from school," he says.

"It stops their parents from getting out into the fields, to harvest the crops and tend to the animals. In short, malaria keeps African nations poor."

"Without malaria there's no doubt that some of the poverty experienced in Africa would be relieved."

African governments believe they can reduce the incidence of malaria by half in the next 10 years.

In a country like Nigeria, the necessary resources are there.

Poverty is a great obstacle in alleviating malaria
Poverty is a great obstacle in alleviating malaria

What would be new, would be the political commitment.

Malaria may rarely hit the headlines, but it is one of Africa's great killers.

Some 2,500 African children under the age of five die from the disease every day.

In Asia and in South America, malaria is on the retreat.

In Africa, it is on the offensive.

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See also:

19 Apr 00 | Africa
Giant mosquito net unveiled
02 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Researchers map malaria parasite
26 Jul 99 | Medical notes
31 Jan 00 | Africa
Gates boosts vaccine programme
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