09/28/2012 05:06 pm ET Updated Nov 28, 2012

A Mother's Excruciating Choice: Protect Her Children From Malaria or Feed Them

Try to imagine the challenges that people in remote parts of developing countries must face every day: no clean and safe water, a lack of healthcare and education facilities, and children having to walk for hours to collect water or attend school.

As if the lack of basic amenities were not enough, malaria carrying mosquitoes endanger the lives of residents of many of Zambia's rural communities, and young children are the ones who suffer the most.

An excruciating choice

While malaria can be prevented by sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net, for residents of the Mbala area development program, finding money to purchase a bed net is almost impossible. And so malaria has taken a terrible toll on the most vulnerable: children under age five.

Many residents have minimal income and it must be channeled towards buying food to survive; some families eat only one meal a day. Buying mosquito nets is simply out of the question --even though the mosquito, Africa's deadliest predator, stalks them on a daily basis. It's an excruciating gamble these families have no choice but to make.

World Vision distributes life-saving bed nets

World Vision has stepped-up its distribution of bed nets in the area to enable families to protect themselves from mosquito bites and ultimately save the lives of their children.

Jane Namwizye, 35, a mother of five, considers herself a lucky woman because she has not lost any of her children to malaria; nevertheless she shared how all her children used to get malaria regularly until World Vision intervened.

"My children could get very sick and they actually used to take turns in getting malaria. I remember my daughter Maureen was very ill after complaining of acquiring a cold," she says.
Jane recalled that as soon as World Vision carried out interventions to curb malaria in the area, cases reduced drastically throughout the community, and even in her own household.

Training is critical for effective use

Training on how to use the bed nets is an important part of World Vision's work, so that families don't just have the nets, but they also know how to use them effectively.

"We lacked knowledge and understanding about malaria until [trainings] were conducted and our minds became more appreciative of how best we can prevent ourselves from acquiring malaria," she says.

Jane says she has no ability to buy a bed net because the few resources she has go towards buying food for her children. In addition, she says, if the nets were given without a lot of training, it would have been difficult for her family to utilize them effectively.

In many villages throughout Zambia, the new year brought a new chance for life and good health. For many families like Jane's, the threat of malaria is now a thing of the past.

What You Can Do

  • Pray for the many other parents like Jane Namwizye who live in malaria-prone regions and whose children are still at risk from this deadly disease. Pray for the collective will within the United States and internationally to eradicate this preventable, treatable disease once and for all.
  • Ask your elected officials to prioritize funding for malaria programs -- use our easy online action form to send an e-mail.
  • Learn more about how to provide insecticide-treated bed nets to save more children from the deadly bite of mosquitoes.
  • Learn more about our End Malaria Campaign and download free resources.