By Dr. Gladys Tetteh
They Didn’t Know Malaria Can Kill
Years ago, I was a young physician working on the pediatric unit of a hospital in Accra, Ghana, watching too many children die from severe—and entirely preventable—malaria. During the rainy months, from June to October, it was particularly bad. Mothers brought in children suffering from severe anemia, cerebral malaria or hypoglycemia—all complications of malaria.
It was clear to me that the children’s mothers just didn’t know to seek care early.
If only I had known that what my child had was dangerous, I would have taken him to the hospital, they would tell me.
But by then, it was too late.
Families needed better health education. If these mothers had known the symptoms, signs and benefits of seeking medical care immediately, they would have come sooner. More importantly, if they had been educated on prevention techniques sooner, many would never have needed to come in for care in the first place.
These were the early seeds of my passion for global health—the experiences that led me to join Jhpiego and provide oversight to a portfolio of malaria programs implemented across more than 18 countries.
Too many families live too far from health facilities. But we have solutions that break this barrier! Here, health workers knew that one member of this family had contracted malaria. They showed up at the house to test the rest of the family to be sure others hadn’t also contracted the disease. One child tested positive and quickly received treatment.
Pregnant women and their babies are among the most vulnerable to malaria. But we know how to prevent malaria in pregnancy! Up to six doses of three little antimalarial pills at regular intervals during pregnancy are incredibly effective. An innovative new program is distributing this key preventive medicine in the community and through antenatal care to ensure that women have every opportunity to receive the optimal treatment throughout their pregnancy.
Belise Ibock suspected that she had malaria—she even bought what turned out to be a fake medicine in the market to treat herself. Luckily, her community health worker visited her home. He was trained to provide a rapid diagnostic test that confirmed Belise’s malaria infection and to provide effective treatment.