Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ethiopia's epic battle against the Waba and malaria

Wäba: a mosquito that is carrying malaria (Amharic).

Does it strike you as strange that a language would have a specific term for a malaria-carrying mosquito? In a country that has seen 9 million cases of malaria per year, a distinction between malaria-infested mosquitoes and unaffected mosquitoes is necessary (UNICEF). Ethiopia is hit hard by malaria, but with tremendous dedication, the country is making advances against the disease.

"Historically, a malaria epidemic hits Ethiopia every five to eight years. The last one, in 2003-and four, caught the country unaware. Millions contracted the disease. Nobody knows how many died." Now, "Ethiopia is gearing up for an epic battle with malaria, possibly later this year. The stakes are high, with international aid agencies betting millions of dollars that the Horn of Africa's largest country can wipe out a disease that kills at least a million Africans every year" (Heinlein).

"Malaria is seasonal in Ethiopia coming after the beginning of the rainy season. September and October are usually the months that see the highest number of cases. Will there be more than usual this year? The head of USAID's malaria programme in Ethiopia, Richard Reithinger, says only time will tell, but if it is an epidemic year then some 10 million cases could be expected" (Chinnock). "Aid agencies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to prevent the next outbreak" and "30,000 health extension workers" have been deployed to combat malaria by eradicating mosquitoes and educating the public (Heinlein). "Hospitals are also being put on alert and, meanwhile, the country continues with its ambitious programme to distribute 20 million insecticide-treated bednets" (Chinnock). "In a country with a doctor shortage and a mostly rural population...bednets for all, and an army of village-level health workers are the cornerstones of the strategy to beat the disease" (Heinlein).

The strategy of maintaining village health personnel and distributing anti-mosquito bednets is working for Ethiopia. "In 2005, the Ethiopian government unveiled an ambitious strategy, with donor support, to deliver two mosquito nets to every family at risk. By January 2008, 20.5 million bed nets had been delivered and a third of at-risk children were sleeping in safety... Within three years of the start of the program, cases of malaria, and death rates, had been halved" (Coghlan). With continued support, Ethiopia might just be able to make malaria a disease of the past.

Chinnock, Paul. "Ethiopia will expand malaria control efforts." TropIKA.net. 23 Mar 2009.
Coghlan, Nora. "SMART Aid helps Ethiopia halve malaria deaths in two years." ONE International. 12 June 2009.
Heinlein, Peter. Addis Ababa. "Ethiopia Prepares for Battle with Malaria." VOA News. 20 March 2009.
UNICEF Ethiopia. http://www.unicef.org/ethiopia/malaria.html


  1. Ana,

    I've always wondered if there was a connection between Anophelines and their vampiric counterparts. Obviously, both drink blood to live. And yes, both also tend to come out when the sun goes down. But only the female mosquito carries the infectious contagion. This doesn't seem to be the case with vampires. What gives?


  2. What an interesting question...I love it!
    You clearly know that (most) female mosquitoes must drink blood before they can produce eggs. Because the females are the ones doing the biting, they are the ones doing the transmitting. If vampires infect with a bite (and I'm not saying that they do), then you would receive the infection from whichever gender of vampire chooses to bite you.