Malaria capital of the world

Malaria capital of the world

Apac in northern Uganda is surrounded by a huge mosquito infested swamp and has been called the malaria capital of the world, with locals being bitten on average by 6 malaria infected mosquitoes every night.

The local hospital sees 5,000 people with malaria every week, many with cerebral malaria – the most fatal type.

This preventable and treatable disease is such a problem in this area in part due to corruption and mismanagment in local government and health organisations.

Uganda has been given more than £20 million of anti-malarial drugs and malaria prevention aid by the international community, but corruption often means the malaria tablets and nets are not reaching those people who need it. Much of this aid is stolen and sold on the black market at commercial pharmacies while the local hospital runs short of supplies. 320 people die every day in Uganda from malaria.

Increasing malarial resistance

The stolen malaria tablets are sometimes hidden in baking-hot tin-roofed back rooms – conditions which can make the drugs ineffective. The desparate victims pay for black market malarials that do not then work, but the parasite in that persons body can build up a resistance to the drug, and the parasite can be passed to another mosquito biting the same victim at a later date.

This is how parasite resistance to anti-malarials is spread.

Unreported World on Channel 4 screened exceptional reportage on the issue (01/10/2010).
View Malaria Town on 4OD.

Many of the patients admitted with the disease are under five and the pediatric ward is overflowing with youngsters. The team meets a mother cradling the body of her six-week-old daughter. Her father, Jasper, tells Steeds the hospital has run out of medicine to treat malaria patients.

In the pharmacy the dire shortage is clear: there’s only one box of anti-malarial drugs left. Those wanting treatment have to go outside and buy whatever vital medicine they need. The pharmacist tells Steeds: “if you can’t pay for the drugs, you die.”

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