The Malaria-Ebola Nexus

Digba Massaquoi waits with her 5-year-old son, Lahai, who is ill, at the health clinic in Benduma, outside Bo, Sierra Leone, in July 2014. Amid fears about Ebola, many people in West Africa are choosing not to go to health clinics or hospitals for treatment of other illnesses. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

Digba Massaquoi waits with her 5-year-old son, Lahai, who is ill, at the health clinic in Benduma, outside Bo, Sierra Leone, in July 2014. Amid fears about Ebola, many people in West Africa are choosing not to go to health clinics or hospitals for treatment of illnesses. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola outbreak an international health emergency, with 2,000 people infected so far and more than 1,000 deaths in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria. As these countries frantically try to contain Ebola, fearful people are not going to health clinics or hospitals for other illnesses. These illnesses add to the burden created by Ebola.

Malaria is one of the diseases either not being treated or being treated through self-medication, which creates its own  problems. The rainy season is under way, when more malaria cases occur. This compounds the problem. Improper use of malaria medications can result in resistance to the drugs. The medications require a patient to follow a course of treatment, and failure to do so can result in a more drug-resistant parasite in the future.

Researchers suspect a highly resistant parasite now affecting people in south Asia is a result of haphazard malaria drug usage during the Vietnam War.

Both diseases disproportionately affect the poor and ill-informed. Because Ebola and malaria have common early symptoms, such as fever, headache and vomiting, there may be confusion about the cause of illness among both those who are ill and health care providers.

Life-saving messages needed

While malaria is curable, Ebola is not. But there is real concern that the mortality rate from malaria may rise because patients will not seek treatment. Therefore, it is critical to get accurate, life-saving messages to people in these areas.

Communication and education are two of the four pillars The United Methodist Church and its health workers are using in the fight against malaria and Ebola. Neglect of any disease of poverty is costly in human lives and productivity, which means costs to national economies, added burdens for weak national health services, and great human suffering and death.

This panel from an info graphic illustrates malaria's toll. Graphic by Work the World.

This panel from an info graphic illustrates malaria’s toll – as well as lives saved by international efforts. Please click on the infographic link in the narrative to see the entire infographic Graphic by Work the World.

An infographic by Work The World of the UK illustrates both the severity of the toll malaria takes and also the hopeful potential to reduce its consequences. Behavior change communication is essential to reducing the humanitarian crisis of Ebola and the ongoing crisis of malaria.

Responding to the crisis

United Methodist Communications has provided $10,000 crisis communications grants to United Methodist annual (regional) conferences in Liberia and Sierra Leone to help get out health education messages through printed fliers, banners and radio. United Methodist Communications is also networking with other church agencies and international and interreligious organizations to coordinate communications efforts. It has also provided training and software to local communicators to enable them to send broadcast text messages to local people.

Similarly, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the Indiana Annual Conference and the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection have provided cash assistance to affected regions for medical supplies and communications.

The Foundation for United Methodist Communications has established an emergency communications fund to provide support during situations such as this one so that funding will be readily available in the event of a crisis or disaster. Your help is needed to ensure that we are able to meet these needs as they occur. You can donate here.

This situation also underlines the ongoing need to continue the malaria work the people of The United Methodist Church have supported for the past seven years. The world has made great strides in reducing deaths from malaria, but we are still working toward the goal of elimination. To give to Imagine No Malaria, visit ImagineNoMalaria.org.

 

One Response to “The Malaria-Ebola Nexus”

  1. Neil Pakenham-Walsh August 19, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    Larry and readers, Please join Healthcare Information For All to help address the Ebola-malaria nexus. http://www.hifa2015.org

    HIFA (Healthcare Information For All) is a global campaign and knowledge network administered by the Global Healthcare Information Network, a non-profit organisation working to improve the quality of health care in developing countries. We are more than 12,000 health workers, librarians, publishers, researchers and policymakers, committed to accelerate progress towards the HIFA Vision: a world where every person has access to the healthcare information they need to protect their own health and the health of others – people will no longer be dying for lack of knowledge. One-third of members are based in Africa, one-third in Europe, and one-third in the rest of the world. HIFA members represent more than 2500 organisations across 171 countries worldwide, and interact on five global email discussion forums (HIFA Global Forums) in three languages:
    1. HIFA
    2. CHILD2015 in collaboration with the International Child Health Group of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and the International Society of Social Paediatrics and Child Health
    3. HIFA-Portuguese in collaboration with WHO, Geneva
    4. HIFA-EVIPNet-French in collaboration with WHO, Geneva
    5. HIFA-Zambia in collaboration with the Zambia UK Health Workforce Alliance

    To join, please go to hifa2015.org and click on Join.

    Best wishes,
    Neil

    Let’s build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare knowledge. Join HIFA: http://www.hifa2015.org

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