“Mary and Martha”, and the Tragedy of Malaria
Richard Curtis, known for many films, including, “Love Actually,” “Notting Hill,” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary”, among many others, has produced a movie about Malaria to garner attention about the suffering this disease can cause.
The seed for the idea of the movie was planted when Curtis traveled to Ethiopia in 1985 and was horrified by famine and poverty in the country. He wanted to raise awareness about malaria and make people in developed countries pay attention to the seriousness of the disease.
At first he thought he could raise money to tackle the issue, but he believes in bringing about change through protest, so the idea of the movie was born. Curtis brings attention to the movie by using well known actresses, Hilary Swank, who plays a rich American in the movie and Brenda Blethyn, a British actress who plays a working class woman.
These two unlikely women are drawn together when they have to travel to Africa. Both their sons are in Mozambique and have contracted malaria. This common bond unites them. They become united in their desire to do good and work towards eradication of malaria.
The movie is filmed in North Carolina and South Africa. It’s 90 minutes long and combines the beauty of the African landscape with the grief of the theme of the movie. Curtis’s hope is that the movie will raise awareness to support complete eradication of deaths from malaria by the year 2020.
Malaria is a Killer
For Westerners who are comfortable financially and travel to Africa, contracting malaria is a serious situation, but it is treatable. On the other hand, for a huge number of children, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, malaria is a killer. The tragedy is that the disease is preventable. Malaria kills more than a million people each year and seventy five percent are children under age five.
With financial support and backing malaria can be wiped out. Funds are needed for a number of preventative methods, spraying insecticides and teaching people to use protective netting. Education and treatment are available, but funding is needed,and public awareness must be raised to combat deaths due to malaria.
Malaria Trial Vaccine
Reports of a landmark trial vaccine in 2011 demonstrated that of the 6000 infants and toddlers aged 5 to 17 months who received the vaccine, 56% of them did not contract the most serious type of malaria. Scientists are hopeful that the vaccine will be ready for distribution in 2015.
World Health Organization Statistics on Malaria
According to the World Health Organization, nearly half the world’s population is at risk for malaria. Many countries are learning to control malaria, and malaria-related deaths are decreasing. This is due in part to wide distribution and education regarding protective netting. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, where data is difficult to gather, some countries seem to be showing an increase in deaths related to malaria. Malaria control is not guaranteed and is not always easy to maintain.
Traveling to Malaria Infected Countries
For travelers to countries that are still reporting cases of malaria, it is important to know the facts. Every year approximately 1,500 Americans returning from Mexico, Central America, South America, Africa, India and many sub-tropical regions are diagnosed with malaria. So it’s important for these travelers to take precautions.
CDC Website on Malaria Prevention
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) website is a useful source of information on malaria prevention. The CDC will recommend if you need to take malaria prevention medication, depending on where you are traveling. It is believed that high traffic tourist areas in some countries such as Mexico, Costa Rica etc. do not have a high risk of malaria.
If you know that you will be traveling to a high risk area, be sure to take the preventative medication. Also add to your packing list: long-sleeved shirts, insect repellent, flying insect spray, and even a bed net, depending on the type of accommodations.
With the airing of the movie “Mary and Martha”, hopefully the devastating death toll, from malaria on young children in sub-Saharan Africa, will become a major concern in world politics.