Malaria kills a child in Africa every 30 seconds. The disease is both the cause and effect of Africa’s poverty. But in Uganda, a pioneering farmer, Clovis Kabaseke, believes he has an answer to both problems, using the Chinese herb Artemisia. Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies – are one of the best new hopes for defeating Malaria. Clovis hopes that by encouraging African farmers to grow the plant, he can cure both poverty and this deadly disease. Television documentary produced for the BBC.
Every year up to 500 million people contract malaria. Of these, around one million die. Cecilia Awor is worried that her four month old baby son Simon may soon join this unlucky number. He has all the symptoms of malaria. But Cecilia is fortunate. Her neighbour, Jimmy Magara, is a Community Medicine Distributor. Cecilia takes Simon to Jimmy for diagnosis. Jimmy confirms he is suffering from malaria and needs immediate treatment. The urgency is compounded by the fact that Cecilia lives in Eastern Uganda, where some of the deadliest strains of malaria are found.
Malaria is carried by mosquitoes. Living in their saliva are thousands of malaria parasites, which enter the bloodstream when the mosquito bites a human. They travel around the body until they reach the liver, where they invade the liver cells and start to replicate. Eventually their numbers are so large that the liver cells burst and release million of malaria parasites back into the bloodstream causing fever and death. Luckily for Simon, Jimmy has just received supplies of Coartem, the most effective anti-malaria drug available on the Community Medicine Distributor scheme. The drug is free for any child under 5-years of age, though it is expensive to manufacture and so is far more widely available when manufactured locally. The key ingredient of Coartem – a chemical named Artemisinin – can be extracted from the Artemisia plant, a crop which can be farmed easily in Uganda. Were the drugs only available at a cost, or at a greater distance, Simon would surely die. The three day course of Coartem cures Simon, but cannot prevent reinfection. A simple bed net can protect a child from mosquitoes, but Jimmy does not have enough to go around. Instead, Cecilia and her baby use their single small net while the other children are continually bitten. It seems inevitable that Cecilia’s children will face reinfection and perhaps this time with a less fortunate outcome, unless more funding is received.