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CBN News 
  Malaria Claims 54


  March 8th, 2012
By Crystal & Gordon Wiebe
  Betty Mhando and Bertha Kisudi are nurses working in southeastern Tanzania for an indigenous organization named Community Nursing Initiative (CNI). CNI is a local partner of the Canadian decentralized non-profit, Community Builders Network (CBN).

In a recent malaria treatment and prevention visit to the village of Kapele in the Kasanga Ward near Lake Tanganyika, nurse Betty herself was infected with malaria. Her case was serious and she was transported to the nearby city of Sumbawanga where she received IV treatment. Even before she recovered, Betty was making plans to return to Kapele.

The village of Kapele, with its blue water and tall palm trees could be a tropical paradise, instead, it is a place of poverty and hardship. In the past five months, 220 of the 3,211 residents became seriously ill with malaria and 54 died as a result.

Of those who died, 45 were six years of age or younger. The medication that would have saved the 54 lives costs $200. In Kapele there is no medicine.

The reason there is no medicine in Kapele is partly its isolation, partly the extreme poverty in the area and partly the total reliance of the villagers on traditional remedies. The area is know for its saturation of witch doctors. 

Villagers live in grass huts and are constantly exposed to the bites of malaria carrying mosquitoes. Before nurse Betty and her team arrived to work in the area, USAID delivered truck loads of mosquito nets to the area. But without training the nets we useless. Some of the men in the village thought they made good fishing nets. 

Globally, approximately one million people die from malaria each year. Sadly, it is a treatable disease. With prompt medical attention, a full recovery can be expected once the malaria parasite is diagnosed. Almost 90 percent of malaria related deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and over half of those deaths affect children ages five and under.

Numerous organizations are attempting to eradicate malaria from the planet. In Africa, the group, Malaria No More, has a plan to eliminate the disease from the continent by 2015. A lofty goal, easier said than done.

Betty isn't focused on a world-wide effort to erase the malaria plague, but she is certainly trying to eradicate the disease in Kapele and the surrounding villages in the Kasanga Ward. The brave efforts of Betty and her team are a microcosm of the global initiative. Malaria is eradicated one household at a time.

CNI's sponsor organization, CBN, received a pledge from a private donor for $500,000 over three years. The funds currently help 40,000 people in the Kasanga Ward and another 20,000 in the Kahungu villages of Bukavu, DR Congo. The money pays the salaries of dedicated nurses and other community development specialists and also supplies medicine, pay-it-forward micro credit funds, clean water programs and agricultural assistance.

Yesterday, as this writer sat in her comfortable home in the mountains of western Canada, she wanted to see, with her own eyes, the village of Kapele. In a few minutes with a download of Google Maps and a few click of a mouse, the grass huts of the village could be seen, mixed with some metal roofed buildings. Fishing boats were beached in the tiny sand harbor.

Kapele is a real place with real people. Betty sent this writer a list of the names and ages of the children and adults who died. Last night, I thought about the mothers who lost their small children as I rocked my 10 month old son to sleep. 

With another click of the mouse, earlier today, CBN sent $200 to Betty and the staff at CNI to purchase enough medicine to prevent 54 more deaths. The money came from someone who did not have a half a million to spare, but could afford a $200 donation.

All this came too late for the 45 mothers who lost their children to a preventable disease, but not to late to help the next 45.

In a big world, changes in far away villages seem impossible. But as technology shrinks our world, a small fishing village, a dedicated nurse and dying children are not that far away.

Big miracles, like the $500,000 in private funding that set up an infrastructure for Betty and her team, made possible a smaller miracle; the $200 that bought medicine for Kapele.

When Betty is not making her village nursing rounds she likes to find pen pals who will exchange emails from different part of the world. An email from Betty is as simple a few clicks on your email provider and sending a short introduction to bettymhando@yahoo.com. Another click on www.communitybuilders.ca can send $200 to reduce under-five mortality.

The world is not so big any more. Betty is making sure of that.

   
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