Case study

Malaria in Rwanda - a preventable tragedy

Under Rwanda’s national campaign against malaria, supported by UKaid some 2.7 million insecticide treated bednets were distributed last year

A disease that kills

Angelique Mukashyaka wanted to be a singer. A happy, sociable girl, she enjoyed school and sang in her church choir in the village of Masaka, Rwanda.

But at the age of 13, Angelique’s future was snatched away from her. An illness that began with a fever and headache worsened until she could not walk or even speak - she was in the grip of malaria.

Each year, some 863,000 people around the world lose their lives to malaria. Earlier this month Angelique’s mother told Andrew Mitchell - International Development Secretary - of her heartbreak as she realised she would lose her daughter to this preventable, treatable disease.

“I didn’t get a chance to say good bye” said Anne-Marie, “by the time we knew she had malaria, it was too late - she was too weak to talk”.

When Angelique’s fever started, her sisters Josiane, 8 and Francine, 21, fell ill at the same time. But Anne-Marie wasn’t able to afford the £2 a year medical insurance she thought she needed to take them to the health centre no more than a mile from their home - so she waited to see if they would get better.

Life-saving help

After 3 days passed, Anne-Marie realised she had to get help: “I knew they couldn’t stay at home. I was desperate. So together with neighbours, I carried the girls to the health centre and pleaded for help.” The girls were seen to straight away, with blood tests confirming that all 3 were suffering from malaria.

For Josiane and Francine, the treatment provided by the health centre was life-saving. But Angelique could not be saved. “Angelique’s story shows why we need to tackle malaria” said Andrew Mitchell in a visit to Anne-Marie’s home, “it is a tragedy that so many people continue to lose their lives to this preventable, treatable disease.”

Simple and effective prevention

Since Angelique passed away, her family has received bednets so that all of the children can sleep protected from the mosquitos which carry malaria. Under Rwanda’s national campaign against malaria, supported by UKaid some 2.7 million insecticide treated bednets were distributed last year.

As well as providing protection against malaria, the national campaign is helping to provide treatment when it strikes. In all 30 districts of Rwanda, community health workers have been given the new, effective anti-malarial drugs that saved the lives of Josiane and Francine.

Speaking on his visit to Rwanda in advance of the launch of the UK’s plan to help halve malaria deaths in at least ten malaria hot spots in Africa and Asia, Andrew Mitchell said: “Tackling malaria is one of the best investments money can buy - as little as £2 a year can be enough to save a child’s life. People in Britain can be proud that our support is helping to save lives by providing the protection and treatment that is needed to tackle this killer disease.”

Updates to this page

Published 31 December 2010