They’re the tiniest, most annoying uninvited guests at every summer barbecue or backyard pool party…mosquitoes. Usually, all they’ll leave you with is an itchy bump. Sometimes, though, their bite can be deadly. Why? Malaria.

It’s hard to imagine how a tiny mosquito could harbor a deadly disease like malaria. But it’s true — the consequences of their bites can go way beyond itching. In most cases, a bite from a mosquito carrying malaria can lead to flu-like symptoms that go away with treatment. In worst-case scenarios, people die.

What is malaria?

Malaria is a disease caused by parasites that live in certain kinds of mosquitoes. The malaria parasites enter a person’s bloodstream through an infected mosquito’s bite. Symptoms usually appear after a 10 to 15-day incubation period.

People with malaria often have symptoms that include fever, chills, nausea, and headaches. The disease is treatable with anti-malarial medication that kills the malaria parasite. Catching the disease early improves patients’ chances of recovery.

But for many, especially children, the symptoms can be far more severe and can lead to death. Severe symptoms can include extreme respiratory distress, convulsions, jaundice, and comas.

Additionally, the same person can be infected over and over again. Every mosquito bite carries risk. It needs to be treated repeatedly, even if someone’s already had it once.

Though malaria is dangerous, it’s also preventable and treatable with simple and cost-effective measures.

Who is at risk?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 619,000 people died in 2021 from malaria. Africa carries the burden most significantly as 95% of all malaria cases occur there.

a mother holds her sick child while speaking with a doctor

Malaria is especially dangerous for children. In fact, malaria is one of the top five threats to children under five. Every two minutes, a child dies from the disease. Medical Teams commonly sees cases in our clinics and works to educate, prevent, and treat the causes and symptoms of malaria.

The statistics around malaria are dire. WHO reports that about 76% of all malaria deaths are in children under five. In Africa, the rate is even higher at 80%.

Additionally, pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to malaria. It’s dangerous for the mother, who is more prone to anemia. It’s also dangerous for her newborn. Malaria during pregnancies can result in low birth weights. Infants can be born with malaria, threatening their health at birth.

Mariam is more than a statistic

Mariam, at five-months-old, was like any other little girl: happy, smiling, and playful. She and her mother, Natukunda, live in a refugee settlement in Uganda. One day, Mariam’s eyes became glassy and she stopped responding to her mother. She began vomiting, refusing to breastfeed, and convulsing. Natukunda panicked and was afraid Mariam would die.

Luckily, Natukunda was able to rush Mariam to a Medical Teams International clinic.

a mother and child wait in a health center to be treated for malaria
Baby Mariam waits with her mother

The skilled health workers there quickly recognized Mariam’s symptoms of fever, vomiting, and convulsions. A rapid malaria test confirmed that her small body was besieged by the disease.

She didn’t have much time.

They started an IV and gave her anti-malarial medication. Mariam spent one day in the clinic receiving care, then was well enough to go home with follow-up medicine. Thanks to the swift action of the clinic and by God’s grace, Mariam was back to her playful self in four days.

Medical Teams treats and prevents malaria

At Medical Teams, God’s love moves us to make sure that mothers aren’t left with empty arms by malaria. Thanks to our generous donors and capable health workers, we are striving for more stories like Mariam’s.

a doctor examines a baby using a stethoscope
A clinical officer examines baby Mariam

When children die from malaria, it’s especially tragic because it’s simple and inexpensive to treat. A rapid malaria test, the first step to treatment, only costs about $1. Children under 3 only need to be treated with 6 tablets of anti-malarial medication to be cured, which costs about $1.32.

We train volunteers from the communities we serve to help families prevent malaria, recognize the symptoms, and find clinics if they or a loved one is sick. They are also able to administer medication in mild cases. In Uganda alone, our trained volunteers saw 276,252 children under five for malaria in 2022.

We fund clinics so shelves stay stocked with the medicine and supplies needed to treat the disease. And when someone like Mariam comes in with severe symptoms, our doctors and nurses get to work quickly and efficiently. They use rapid one-prick tests and anti-malarial medication to treat them.

Our local volunteers and clinics also distribute treated mosquito nets for people to sleep under at night. WHO estimates that using treated mosquito nets can reduce incidence rates of malaria by 50% in sub-Saharan Africa.

Knowing we are not alone in this fight gives us hope. New discoveries, like vaccines, are encouraging steps towards a future without malaria.

Hope for the future

Though a world without malaria might seem as impossible as swatting every mosquito, stories like Mariam’s make it a future worth fighting for. Medical Teams is devoted to spreading the kind of hope and relief that was evident in Mariam’s mother’s face when she knew her daughter would live.

Save another mother from heartbreak. Give today and demonstrate your faith in a world where God is evident in how he heals.

It only takes $30 to treat 10 children with malaria. Help save a life like Mariam’s and prevent other children from suffering by donating today!