Malaria is preventable, treatable and curable. But still more than 250 million infections lead to one million deaths from malaria every year. The World Health Organization estimates that malaria kills an African child every 30 seconds.
Treatment and prevention is a hardship for the neediest families with the fewest economic opportunities. According to research by Freedom from Hunger, on average, a very poor family in West Africa will spend one-third of their household income on dealing with malaria.
The high economic cost of malaria keeps the families locked in poverty. Those who can afford treatment have little left for life’s necessities, such as food and shelter. Parents lose vital wages when they fall sick or must stay home to care for a sick child.
The consequences are even worse for families who can’t pay. People who survive malaria are often chronically sick and less nourished. Children miss school, thus limiting their future potential. The unluckiest families lose their loved ones.
But there is a way to stop it.
Freedom from Hunger found that educating women about malaria prevention and treatment options, and also providing them with microfinance opportunities, helped them protect their families from the deadly disease.
Microfinance helps poor people–often with little or no cash income–gain access to basic financial services, such as loans and savings. It gives women opportunities to start home-based businesses, save money and, in time, pull themselves out of poverty.
Combined with malaria education, microfinance becomes a powerful tool to save lives. Savings can guard against wages lost if someone gets sick. Even better, if women know how to get access to, and use, insecticide-treated bednets, they can protect their children from night-biting mosquitoes that spread the disease. In the long term, this eliminates lifetime costs in education and productivity lost due to disease. In the short term, it keeps food on the table.
Our friends at Freedom from Hunger are using microfinance to help families save their children from malaria. Help Freedom from Hunger spread the word on the potential microfinance has in saving lives. Please sign our petition, urging the United Nations Capital Development Fund to increase its efforts to economically empower women in malaria-infected areas.
Photo by Karl Grobl for Freedom From Hunger
By Emily Vaughan