This is a small diary entry i wrote when i was in Rwanda:
June 26th 2017: I am in Rwanda right now doing my research on causes of malaria at Mahama Refugee Camp. I always use to think that eradicating malaria was just a scientific and an economical problem. Solve the two and malaria is eliminated. After coming here I learned that those just even close to estimate what we are really dealing with. Being out on the field everyday, being given the chance the lifestyle has taught me so much. I am constantly interacting with people who are unaware of everything to people who know everything. I am learning so much every single day it is hard to keep track what is new that i learned of.
Malaria has an cultural aspect to it. It is the same as flu back in India. if you have cold, people don’t go to the doctor and get a blood test because it is thought of something that is common and something that is routine. You take some medicines, its gone and then you don’t care about it until it comes again. its the same problem with malaria in any endemic region. you have a scientific problem of not finding the right vaccine – you decide to prevent it. you use chemically dipped mosquito nets as way to prevent. you find cheap ways of production and transportation to make it economically efficient. now heres the story after distribution: its the same as giving people face masks in India and instructing people to wear it everywhere and everyday. how many of us would really do this? it is inconvenient because it is not normal. sleeping in mosquito nets on tiny beds, sleeping in heat, and dealing with problems of rats eating the nets. In fact one refugee told me that he uses the mosquito net as fishing net. it gives him the opportunity to get fish for his child and possible income source if the catch is big.
We see global problems faced by developing countries as first world problems and suggest first world solutions without looking at the depth, tradition, rituals, beliefs of those who really live with these problems in the so stated third world.
Refugees told me that i would rather have money than a new bicycle. if UNHCR gave me a bicycle, i would go sell it and from the money new things i like. We need to learn to see beyond the three basic necessities of food shelter and clothes. money is required for refugees to buy things, indicate demand and for new business to develop that supply this and for a market to form.
One of my friends suggested that why don’t we just drain the swamp that is the most favourable mosquito breeding site. but you don’t need a swamp for mosquito to breed. say a refugee works on the field. she wakes up in the morning and puts her foot on the soft mud outside her shelter, and leaves her footprint. After sometime, it rains and the footprint fills up with water and there we go, the perfect site for mosquitoes to breed. The refugee gets mosquito gets malaria, she falls sick, she cant work, her incomes falls, she over works, she falls patient to more diseases and the cycle goes on. poverty leading to more poverty due to a bite from a mosquito.
Using countless numbers of chemicals to kill mosquito will not work in the long run because we are living in the same world as the mosquitoes. They too have thrived in their path to evolution. We have coevolved with them. Their survival methods are of the same strength as ours. They will go through the process of natural selection and grow out chemicals made to kill them. The battle will go on so spreading awareness of ways to prevent is the best way to reduce the number of malaria positive patients. it is important to make people realise why is it important to care about things that are not seen as important in their culture. the power of knowledge would be the most effective tool used to reduce mortality and morbidity cases due to malaria in the long run.
I have seen all sides, from right at the top government to right down to the individual household level and the one thing i have learnt is that it is easy to point out problems but it is so hard to find a effective solution in the long run. The real dynamics of the law we behave under and the environment we thrive in is impossible to understand because your world is constantly changing at unknown speeds.
In the time i typed this, 32 000 more people are diagnosed malaria positive.
Neysa Sanghavi – ‘Pura Vida’ Pure Life
Student IBDP 11, Singapore International School
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