By Jill Marshall
Malaria kills a child every 30 seconds in Africa. This terrifying statistic upset and angered me. It was certainlymotivation for making a film about how this carnage could be prevented.Despite this stark fact my film is, I believe, an uplifting one. It’s the story of an African hero, Clovis Kabaseke. A man with a big dream – to encourage African farmers to grow enough of the medicinal plant Artemisia Annua to wipe out Malaria. The most moving moment for me came after five days filming with Clovis, his wife and six children. We had often talked about how frequently he and his family had been sick from Malaria. But now, in my last interview with him, he confessed that, in 2003, his four year old daughter contracted Malaria and died. His battle against Malaria is a very personal one.
Most people in Clovis’s community live in poverty – but it doesn’t stop them having fun! Part of the film covered a Naming Ceremony! When filming had finished, a small boy came up and asked me to dance… well I love dancing and so does Mike the cameraman. There was no stopping us. We danced the night away – the age of our partners ranging from 4 to 80!
Meeting someone like Clovis reminds me why I love my job. His knowledge of all the flora and fauna in Uganda, his passion for farming and his selfless dedication to his community was a complete inspiration, not just to me but to all the crew. I hope my film, through Clovis, makes viewers want to engage in the war against Malaria.
Case study: Cecilia Awor & Simon Awor – a mother whose child has malaria
Every year, up to 500 million people contract malaria. Of these, around 1 million die. Cecilia Awor is worried that her 4 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 millions 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 bednet 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.