To commemorate World Malaria Day and World Immunization Week, our partners in African research centers who are working on a malaria vaccine have been writing about their personal experiences with malaria. Today, M. Nze Ndong Pascal Romuald, former administrative officer and communications officer at Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon, tells what it’s like to suffer from malaria.
Malaria is the primary cause of medical consultation and mortality in Gabon. This information corresponds to the reality that malaria still kills one child every minute in Africa and is responsible for about 650,000 deaths per year, according to the World Health Organization.
This is all the more disheartening as I, too, have often been a victim. During my childhood, no year would go by without my getting sick with malaria. For my parents, this was a huge financial drain due to the cost of my care and hospital admissions. Sometimes it meant we had no money left for food.
A childhood marred by malaria
I remember the time when I had an attack during my fourth grade class. That day, I shivered uncontrollably, raved, and talked nonsense. I think it may have been a neurological complication due to malaria. One time I had to stay at the Libreville Hospital for almost a whole month.
But whether it was hospitalization for a month or several weeks homebound, the malaria experience was one I wanted no part of. I’d have trouble eating because I could not taste the food. My weight did not correspond to my age and people often made fun of me.
All this encouraged my mother to take more precautions to protect us from this deadly scourge. My mother invested a lot of energy and resources into making our environment safe and compelling us to sleep under an insecticide-treated mosquito net.
Despite everyone’s efforts, I kept on getting sick until the age of 17.
Malaria leaves its mark
Today, malaria has left its mark and many memories on me. But beyond all this, I remain positive. I have high hopes for a vaccine against malaria. Such a vaccine would be so welcome here, and with it will come a sense of relief that my younger brothers, my children, and my community can avoid the untimely deaths and illness this disease brings.