Getting Malaria by Richard Reesor

While living in Uganda this past winter, I came down with an illness. I experienced headache, fever, and chills. I assumed I had the flu and thought that with rest, I would get well soon. After a few days, I was still not feeling better. I mentioned my illness to my neighbour and he advised me to get a malaria test done. I thought he was being overly concerned. I assumed I was well protected since I was taking antimalarial medication and sleeping under a mosquito net.

The next day, I still had a fever so my neighbour directed me to the nearest hospital. From the outside, the hospital appeared to be run-down. Inside, I found clean, basic facilities. Once registered, I encountered the same problems I can typically encounter in many Canadian hospitals, those of under-staffing and long wait times for service. The benches in the waiting room were crowded with people. Those too ill to sit were laying on the floor. Although very busy, the hospital staff were gracious and provided competent and friendly service, despite working in, what many Canadians would call, substandard facilities. After a few hours, I had my consultation with the doctor, was sent to the lab for tests, and then returned to the doctor who confirmed that I had malaria. He prescribed four drugs and sent me to the pharmacy. After receiving my prescription, I paid my bill. The total cost was $3.00, which included $2.40 for the two doctor consultations, the lab fee and $0.60 for the drugs. I returned home and started my medication. Within six hours, the fever and headache were gone. Within five days all my symptoms had disappeared.

The experience of having malaria caused me to reflect. Uganda is a country whose citizens suffer from AIDS, malaria and poverty. Although AIDS is very prevalent in Uganda, the greatest health risk in this country is not AIDS, but malaria. While AIDS makes the headlines, a preventable and treatable illness such as Malaria continues to cause much hardship. What is the reason? Even though most Ugandans know how to self-diagnose malaria, therefore avoiding the doctor’s consultation fee and lab fee, many people do not have the 60cents needed for medication. If they can buy the drug, they tend not to take the full dosage in order to save money. They therefore risk not treating the illness properly. Furthermore, most Ugandans do not have enough money to buy preventive antimalarial drugs and mosquito nets. Children are the most susceptible to the illness. Their small bodies cannot survive the sudden lose of fluids that accompany the high fever caused by malaria. Malaria is the leading cause of death in children ages five and under.

This experience made me realize how far money goes in the economy of a developing country when it is given to organizations which support relief and development programs. For only 60 cents, I experienced great physical relief - relief that should be available to everyone. The next time you have the opportunity to donate to international relief and development work, I hope you remember my story and give generously.

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