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The Female of the Species

Rudyard Kipling – The Female of the Species

In 1911 Rudyard Kipling published a poem entitled “The Female of the Species”. The poem begins with illustrations of the greater deadliness of the females of different species, the Himalayan bear and the cobra. It continues with the general thought that women, “must be deadlier than the male”. I am in no position to make this claim or substantiate it, except with the respect to the mosquito!

We are frequently told that it is the female mosquito that bites and carries the malaria virus. I can speak of this first hand as I have recovered from a mild attack of the virus. My symptoms developed Tuesday week ago (18 February) during thenight and I started treatment quite quickly. This treatment, along with my anti-malaria medication, ensured a swift recovery with mild symptoms. This has been my first time contracting malaria and I have to say that even a small dose of the virus can knock you back and takes a week to recover.

The beach at the Sun ‘n’ Sand resort, Mangochi – the only photo I managed to take!

My symptoms came on while I was at a Tearfund meeting in Mangochi, a three hour drive from Lilongwe on the southern lake shore. The purpose of the meeting was to gather Tearfund partners together who were working in the area of HIV and AIDS prevention, education and care. I had been looking forward to this meeting as an opportunity to get up to date with the state of the HIV and AIDS virus in Malawi, as well as getting to meet other Tearfund partners involved in this area of work. For Scripture Union’s part, our main work in this area is in schools. We focus on prevention of HIV and AIDS through Bible studies and Life Skills.

The first day of the meeting was all about hearing from professionals in this field of work and to be updated on the current situation in Malawi. We received information from the National AIDS Commission, The Office of the President and Cabinet, the Malawi Network of People Living with HIV, and the Disability and HIV & AIDS Society. It wasn’t all statistics and further information gave us a picture of what it means to be living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi. The information was heavy and here are a few important snapshots:

National Estimates

HIV Prevalence

Prevalence Adult (19-49): 10.5% (2010) 10.0% (2011)

Prevalence – Children (0-14): 2.6% (2010) 2.5% (2011)

More recent statistics show an increase in 60,000 new infections per year.

Annual AIDS Deaths

Adults (15+) 37,000 (2010) 33,172 (2011)

Children (0-14 12,000(2010) 10,000 (2011)

Children (1-4) 4,000 (2010) 3,000 (2011)

3 barriers to basic health care:

Barrier 1 – Access to essential medicines

Barrier 2 – Human Resource Crisis in the health care sector

Barrier 3 – Limited access to health services

Unfortunately for me, I had to leave on day 2 of the meeting to travel back to Lilongwe. Pam did well driving the Land Rover (her first long journey at the wheel) and it was good to get home to our own space and kitchen! As for the information from day 1 and the subsequent discussions, I will receive a report on what the outcome of the meeting was, but I know for sure that the challenge here for us in SU to think how we play our part, with our network of groups across the country, to educate, care for and prevent the spread of this pandemic that is still taking its toll on this country.

The malaria testing kit and treatment medication that travels everywhere with us.

And of course the silent killer cannot be ignored either. I may have suffered from a mild case of malaria, but for thousands of people everyday in Malawi, malaria effects them or their family. Although the symptoms are flu-like, the effects of the malaria parasite are far more serious and life threatening. I had access to anti-malaria medication and treatment, for the majority in Malawi anti-malaria tablets are not an option and the treatment can be too expensive.

So that is a snapshot of one of our weeks here in Malawi. I will work on a post updating you on my trip to Kande. Thank you for your prayers while I have been recovering from the malaria and I am now back to full health and strength.