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29.04.2005 Feature Article

Letter From The President: The forgotten disease

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Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, last Monday was observed as Africa Malaria Day. It's one of those days which have been “set aside to draw attention to” certain causes and conditions – in this case malaria. I think Africa Malaria Day is indeed worth the observance, especially in Sikaman. Every citizen of this country has suffered a bout of malaria at one point or another.

In fact, so familiar is the disease to the general population that malaria is the first disease to be mentioned when a person complains of slight headaches, feverishness and loss of appetite. You just go to your spouse and tell him/her that you are not feeling well – you have a headache and your temperature is soaring. His/her first diagnosis will be “malaria” and he/she will promptly prescribe one of those -quine drugs (chloroquine, camoquine, sojaquine, plasmoquine etc.) Yes malaria is a very popular disease in Sikaman. Mama Tess (you know she's a nurse, right?) has told me that 40% of all outpatient cases in our hospitals are malaria cases. Malaria kills women, men and children faster than HIV/AIDS. Yet, we've all taken it for granted. We co-habit with the creatures that cause malaria, yet we seem to have forgotten about the existence of the disease.

Indeed, it appears to me that most of you enjoy the occasional bouts of malaria. Every bout of malaria means that you get to spend a few days away from your annoying boss. Getting malaria also wins you some extra tender, loving, care from your relatives and friends. Malaria is also another excuse for your laziness. Why else have most of us refused to take the simple, inexpensive measures doctors say can help prevent malaria?

Everyone knows that malaria is caused by mosquito bites. Yet instead of doing everything possible to rid your homes of mosquitoes, most of you appear to have taken to mosquito breeding as a hobby. Your backyards are so weedy, with puddles of water everywhere – creating a haven for mosquitoes to thrive and infest you with malaria. The extensive mosquito breeding in Sikaman has helped in so many ways to increase the prevalence of malaria in our country. As malaria prevalence increases, so does the sale of mosquito coils. The sale of mosquito coils is a fast growing industry in Sikaman. The last time I checked, there were not less than 20 brands of mosquito coils in our country. The brand names range from “Action” and “Good Night”, to “Sound Sleep”, “Angel” and “Lord”. Mosquito coil advertisements make a lot of money for our TV stations these days.

It therefore appears that instead of taken measures to stop the mosquitoes from coming to your homes, you prefer to invite them over and when their “tooooon-tooooooooooon” noises get on your nerves (and you start feeling feverish) you rush to the market for mosquito coils. This doesn't make sense, does it? My “abongo” friends at Burma Camp have often told me that the “best way to defend, is to attack”. The same principle, should apply to our battle against malaria.

Most of you don't recognize that we are battling against a disease, which is deadlier than AIDS. We have been making so much noise about AIDS that we have forgotten about the devastation of malaria – its impact on the health of our people, national productivity and the unnecessary pressure it exerts on our health delivery system. AIDS kills within ten (or more) years. Untreated malaria can kill within ten days.

Simply put, malaria is much of a killer disease than AIDS. I therefore think it's high time we paid as much attention to malaria as we do AIDS. Perhaps, we should establish a National Malaria Commission to lead in the crusade against the disease – operating along the same lines as the AIDS Commission. We should devote more money to educational campaigns on malaria and let the people know that mosquito breeding is not a good hobby. Gossiping is a better hobby than mosquito breeding.

If our ministers of state and government officials care as much about the people as they claim, they should set up a 'ministerial fund against malaria'. Each month, every government officials will donate one hundred thousand cedis into this fund, which will be used to purchase and distribute mosquito nets free of charge to the people. I, as the president, cannot set an example in this regard. I am tired of setting examples – good and bad. Someone else should take the initiative this time.

The most important strategy in our battle against malaria, should be spearheaded by the municipal and district assemblies. The 'tankass' people should be brought back. Just as we chase and arrest people for cultivating “wee”, we should arrest and prosecute those who create breeding grounds for mosquitoes. People who cannot observe simple principles of personal and environmental hygiene should be arrested and prosecuted according to the bye-laws of the various district assemblies. They should be fined or jailed or both for helping spread malaria.

This country spends too much money on treating malaria and loses so much as a result of the disease. That's why I've found it appropriate to write to you about malaria. I hope that after reading this letter, you will stop breeding mosquitoes and exert pressure on your neighbour to do the same.

Malaria free,

J. A. Fukuor Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

J. A. Fukuor
J. A. Fukuor, © 2005

The author has 204 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: JAFukuor

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