As a writer you continually add pieces of yourself to your stories. It’s almost unavoidable.
My mother died when I was four years of age. My father tried his best but was immersed in his own struggles, issues, and grief. On more than one occasion my father woke me from my sleep and informed me that he was soon going to be dead and he wanted me to know the status of his official papers so I could “handle” things. Thinking back more than forty years later, I can still “taste” in my mouth those feelings. I got my first job when I was 11. I delivered groceries on an old bike. I used those first paychecks to buy a tent, a backpack, and a sleeping bag. I wanted those so that when my father did die I’d be able to off to the woods, pitch my tent, settle into my sleeping bag, and care for myself. In my mind I thought that I’d be able to support myself through working evenings and weekends at the grocery store, attending my school during the weekdays. I’m not quite sure how I figured to live through the winter months but at least I’d have a place to go.
I felt like I was living my past through Muchoki. One parent gone, dark fears that the other would be gone too, and he’d be alone and having to care for himself—and his sister. I understand Muchoki’s fears because I lived them. I’ve heard the stories, borne witness, looked into the eyes of the children in our program, these true orphans. The difference is that they are not simply nameless children amongst the millions—they are Mutku, Mulwa, Keli, and Baraka. I looked into their eyes and I know what those eyes have seen. Maybe I see more than a little bit of me reflected back.
What is Malaria?
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes. In the human body, the parasites multiply in the liver, and then infect red blood cells. Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, and vomiting, and usually appear between 10 and 15 days after the mosquito bite. If not treated, malaria can quickly become life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs.”
Malaria is a preventable and relatively easy-to-treat disease that has been eradicated in developed countries in North America, Western Europe, and Oceania. That said, Malaria is still one of the most deadly diseases around today, disproportionately killing those who live in poverty and cannot afford simple preventatives and treatments. Every minute, a child somewhere in the world dies of malaria, which is shocking as it can be treated. Simply put, this is a disease affecting the poor and disenfranchised living in underdeveloped countries, and more specifically, sub-Saharan Africa. The UN has reported that “90% of malaria deaths occur in Africa, where malaria accounts for about one in six of all childhood deaths.”
WHO, Health Topics – Malaria. (2014): URL, http://www.who.int/topics/malaria/en/.
UNICEF Health, Malaria. (2012): URL, http://www.unicef.org/health/index_malaria.html.