Every 2 minutes, a child dies of malaria – World Health Organistaion.
“Doctor Doctor, songmi m bii maa. Dↄgu n darigi o” translated from Dagbani to English as “Doctor Doctor, help my child. He is seizuring” – the plea from a worried mother.
This is a classic case of a one-year-and-four-month-old child who presented to the Prang health center in the Pru District of Bono Region at 4:12 p.m. on Wednesday with generalized seizures (also known as convulsions). I am sure that thousands of such life threathening episodes happens at various health facilities across the country each year.
Malaria has plagued the human population since its discovery in 1897. In 2019 alone, 229 million cases with 274,000 deaths from malaria; Africa contributed 94 percent of the recorded cases according to World Health Organisation. Plasmodium falciparum caused 99 percent of these cases in Africa, with Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium vivax, and Plasmodium malariae accounting for the rest. Owing to the efficient existence of the plasmodium vector, the female anopheles mosquito, malaria remains a major public health concern in Sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria accounts for more than a half of all cases reporting to health facilities in Ghana with children contributing to a large proportion with complications like seizures and severe anemia. Malaria is without a doubt one of the leading causes of school and work absenteeism in Ghana.
Many factors may affect a child’s cognitive growth, including infectious disease(like malaria) morbidity, anemia, nutritional status and school absenteeism.
In the developing infant, the formative years of brain interconnections are critical, nutrient-dependent processes. Reduced food intake due to loss of appetite and bitter tongue, as well as nutritional loss due to vomiting caused by repeated malarial episodes, may affect the supply of glucose in the blood for the child’s brain and physical growth. Plasmodium parasites (malaria-causing organisms) kill red blood cells (RBCs), which transport oxygen to our body’s organs, such as the brain. Other plasmodium species have a preference for either newly developed or older RBCs, while P. falciparum targets both. Unfortunately, P falciparum is the most common malaria parasite in Africa, including Ghana. Malaria in Ghana, and for the purposes of this article, in children, is dangerous and causes serious anemia as a result of this unavoidable reality falciparum malaria attacking a large pool of RBC. This causes reduced oxygen available to feed the young developing brain.
Every child’s brain contains several neurons (the brain’s basic functional unit) that are constantly crosslinking to form a mature adult brain with strong memory, language, knowledge recall, and intellectual capabilities. The brain’s fine detailed development is needed for comprehension of ideas and arithmetic. Multiple episodes of malaria, like cerebral malaria (malaria that affects the brain), disrupt this well-coordinated phase both temporarily and sometimes permanently. This in the long run, affects the academic work of the child. The bumps, shakes, and writhing of the head during a malaria-induced seizure cause coup and contre coup injuries (brain injuries) that kill parts of the neurons called axons and dentrites. A neuron that has been lost or killed is not easily replaced. One of the most common reasons for class repetition is this.
Long hospital stay associated with malaria and its complications make children of school going age miss study hours and subject topics relevant to passing exams and academic advancement. Survivors tend to lag behind on returning to class after recovery. Malaria strikes these students during promotional exam weeks, causing them to retake a paper or repeat a class.
Graciously and thankfully, this long ended sequelae of malaria episodes can be avoided by
- Sleeping under insecticide treated nets
- Residual room spraying
- Using a trap door
- Sieving of windows
- Covering stored water
- Wearing long body clothing covering up to the wrist and ankle with socks from 5pm if the child will be outside. DON’T WEAR BLACK CLOTHING AT NIGHT
- Smearing mosquito repellant
- Taking the full drug regimen when diagnosed with malaria even when you are feeling better
- Clearing of bushes distilling choked and sluggishly flowing gutters
- Oiling stagnant water and puddles
Following these precautions would go a long way toward improving student productivity and preserving the family’s financial benefits, rather than squandering them on a preventable malaria-infected infant and job absenteeism due to caring for a sick child.
Source: African Post Online
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