While Working to Eradicate Malaria, Let's Eliminate Malaria Deaths

Last week, there was a glimmer of hope for everyone that suffers from malaria: the world's first-ever malaria vaccine received a green light from European authorities. While we aren't out of the woods yet, this is a positive step toward eliminating this deadly foe. While RTS,S, does provide hope for a tomorrow without malaria, we cannot be lulled into complacency -- this is not a panacea for malaria.

The sad truth about malaria is that it continues to be one of the most deadly conditions in the world. In 2013, 128 million people contracted malaria, of whom more than half a million died. 1.2 billion people remain at high risk of contracting the infection. Every minute a person dies from malaria, and by the time you are finished reading this piece, nearly three people will have succumbed to the parasite.

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Walira mvula, walira matope (“He who asked for rain also asked for mud”)

The usual seasonal rains in Malawi have been amplified by tropical cyclones (Bansi and 93S) in the Indian Ocean – and they are, by the way, fantastic examples of the Coriolis Effect. Both are rotating in a clockwise direction – in contrast to cyclones in the northern hemisphere, which rotate in a counter- (or “anti-“, as the Brits here in Malawi say) clockwise direction.

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Mutu umodzi susenza denga, "One head cannot hold up a roof"

Preparing to hoist the water storage tank up to the top of the tower

Preparing to hoist the water storage tank up to the top of the tower

The 28th “season” of MSU-supported malaria research in Blantyre, Malawi is underway. This proverb is a “teamwork” proverb and refers to the process of building a mud hut – the hut and the thatched roof are constructed separately. The final step is lifting the roof onto the hut – and that requires several people, all working together.

Seven medical students, one fiance and I are settling into the “MSU House” in the Mandala neighborhood of Blantyre, and easy walking distance to the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, our clinical base.

We are luxuriating in restroom renovations, courtesy of Dean William Strampel (College of Osteopathic Medicine) – we’ve moved from 3 toilets and 2 showers in 3 separate rooms to 4 toilets and 3 showers in four separate rooms. THANK YOU, Dean Strampel.

With all of our new capacity to wash and flush, the increasingly frequent “water cuts” are more noticeable – - so, we’ve all been excited about the process of having a reserve water tank installed.

The tower (built on site, including arc welders!) is 25 feet high – and the exercise of raising the tank to the top of the tower, by hand, with no power devices AT ALL, was amazing (see video).

One head may not hold up a roof – but it can hold up a water tank!