Wednesday January 29, 2020

Malawi Becomes First Country to Initiate Immunizing Children against Malaria

The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and was approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2015

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malaria vaccines
FILE - Malaria drugs are seen on display in a privately owned pharmacy in Blantyre, Malawi. (L. Masina/VOA).

The World Health Organization says Malawi has become the first country to begin immunizing children against malaria, using the only licensed vaccine to protect against the mosquito-spread disease.

Although the vaccine only protects about one-third of children who are immunized, those who get the shots are likely to have less severe cases of malaria. The parasitic disease kills about 435,000 people every year, the majority of them children under 5 in Africa.

“It’s an imperfect vaccine but it still has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives,” said Alister Craig, dean of biological sciences at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, who was not linked to WHO or to the vaccine. Craig said immunizing the most vulnerable children during peak malaria seasons could spare many thousands of children from falling ill with malaria or even dying.

malawi, malaria
“It’s an imperfect vaccine but it still has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives,” said Alister Craig, dean of biological sciences at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. VOA

The World Health Organization says Malawi has become the first country to begin immunizing children against malaria, using the only licensed vaccine to protect against the mosquito-spread disease.

Although the vaccine only protects about one-third of children who are immunized, those who get the shots are likely to have less severe cases of malaria. The parasitic disease kills about 435,000 people every year, the majority of them children under 5 in Africa.

“It’s an imperfect vaccine but it still has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives,” said Alister Craig, dean of biological sciences at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, who was not linked to WHO or to the vaccine. Craig said immunizing the most vulnerable children during peak malaria seasons could spare many thousands of children from falling ill with malaria or even dying.

malawi, malaria
The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and was approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2015. Pixabay

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Craig noted one of health officials’ biggest challenges could be convincing parents to bring their children for repeated doses of a vaccine that only protects about a third of children for a limited amount of time. More commonly used vaccines, like those for polio and measles, work more than 90 percent of the time.

“This malaria vaccine is going to save many lives, even if it is not as good as we would like,” Craig said. “But I hope this will kick-start other research efforts so that the story doesn’t end here.” (VOA)

Next Story

Malawi Trying to Find Ways to Contain Overfishing in Its Largest Body of Water, Lake Malawi

But many of them return home empty handed because of the increasing scarcity of fish in the lake

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Malawi, Overfishing, Water
A crowd of fish traders gather each afternoon and evening at a beach in the Makawa area, waiting for the haul from fishermen. Pixabay

Malawi is trying to find ways to contain overfishing in its largest body of water, Lake Malawi. The third largest lake in Africa has long been the economic hub for thousands of fishing communities along the lakefront areas. However, locals say unsustainable fishing practices and climate change have led to dwindling catches, forcing some fishermen to look for alternatives.

A crowd of fish traders gather each afternoon and evening at a beach in the Makawa area, waiting for the haul from fishermen.

But many of them return home empty handed because of the increasing scarcity of fish in the lake.

Michael Makwinja is one of the fishermen.

Malawi, Overfishing, Water
Malawi is trying to find ways to contain overfishing in its largest body of water, Lake Malawi. Pixabay

He says “For example today, those of us who went into the lake for fishing, have made huge loses. We have just come with fish which can fill two five-liter pails, which was only sale at about MK 2,000 (about $2) each. This is huge loss to us,” Makwinja said.

Some fishermen say the fish have been depleted because of climate change.  Others point to the increase in fishing vessels on the lake, resulting in stiff competition for the catch.

The scarcity has forced the fishermen to double the price sold to the traders like Lucia Amidu.

She says “Whenever they catch low fish, they sale at MK 70,000 (nearly $100) per crate, but if we bargain it give at MK 65,000 (about $90). To traders, this makes us make some losses, making us fail to feed our families,” Amidu said.

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The dwindling catch has also forced seasoned fish traders out of business, with many of them switching to other alternatives. Like Joseph Maida, who’s a livestock farmer now.

He says “It’s like I am killing two birds with one stone now. I use the dung for making composite manure. When I have run out cash I kill one goat and sell the meat,” Maida said.

Meanwhile, the government is trying to sensitize communities on regulations designed to reduce overfishing.

These include a ban on some fishing nets and a two-month annual ban on fishing in the lake, from November 1 to December 31.

Malawi, Overfishing, Water
The third largest lake in Africa has long been the economic hub for thousands of fishing communities. Pixabay

Neverson Msusa is the district fisheries officer.

“We have this period which we call closed season’ where some fishing gears and fishing methods are prohibited. This is actually time when fish do breed.  So it’s like we are trying to give some time to fish to freely breed and also grow” Msusa said.

Lakeside communities have formed committees to help reinforce the regulation.

In some areas, the villagers have set up by-laws which have instant penalties to those violating the regulations.

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Noah Mwenyeheri is the headman for Maudzu Village.

He says “One of the penalties is we burn fishing nets of those who violate the by-laws. We do this to protect our environment because it’s our children who will suffer in future should we allow bad fishing practices to continue,” Mwenyeheri said.

In addition, the communities are lobbying the government to extend the annual two-month ban on fishing to five months, in hopes the fish population will grow. (VOA)