• Immaculate Nasigye
  • Jo Yirrell
  • Maurine Murenga

I am a school teacher. But until a few years ago I spent most of my time looking after my pupils instead of educating them. Up to 10 of them at a time would fall sick from malaria. Some of them would be so ill that they would start convulsing on the floor.

Growing up in Uganda, I became used to the constant threat of malaria. My sister died when she was six after contracting the disease. My own five children regularly fell sick, as did I. Malaria is life-threatening, but it is preventable.

Malaria Consortium gave me the chance to train as a volunteer health worker in my village. I learnt how to spot the first signs of the disease, diagnose malaria and provide treatment in simple cases.

I'm very proud of the work I do. It's so easy for me to spot malaria now, and it feels good to help others and make a positive contribution to my community. Expectant mothers and their children come to me for help.

Students in my class still get ill from the disease, but it's become much less common since more people have become volunteers and started raising awareness about malaria. I give frequent health talks, especially on using mosquito nets, and teach adolescent health and life skills. Malaria is still a threat in our village, but I don’t live in fear any more.

Immaculate Nasigye is a Ugandan mother-of-five, teacher and volunteer health worker with Malaria Consortium, which receives funding from Comic Relief.

World Malaria Day may not be the most well know day in the UK, but for me, it’s hugely important. Why? Because my beautiful son Harry died from malaria just over 10 years ago, and I believe that raising awareness of this disease is the best thing I can do in Harry’s memory.

Harry was volunteering in Ghana and having the time of his life when he contracted the disease. He had given his malaria tablets to local children, believing their need was greater than his, but a few days after coming home he became unwell and was admitted into hospital, ten days after that, he was gone

His death still haunts me – knowing now that malaria is so easy to prevent and treat. That’s why since 2009 I have been working with Malaria No More UK, a charity determined to end malaria for good. My story was part of the inspiration for the character of Martha in the 2013 film written by Richard Curtis, Mary and Martha. And three years on – I’m as dedicated as ever to the fight against malaria. We truly have come so far; malaria deaths are down by a tremendous 60 per cent (that’s more than 6 million lives saved) in the past 15 years, yet half the world is still at risk. And in 2016, this is simply not acceptable.  

I find it unbelievable that every two minutes another mother loses a child to malaria - a disease that costs less than £1 to treat. But I know that if we all work together, we could prevent so much heartbreak for families around the world. Heartbreak I know only too well. As more countries work towards eliminating malaria we have to keep up the momentum by increasing financing and political commitment. In January the UK Government recommitted to investing in the global malaria campaign for the next five years, and that makes me really proud to be a Brit. I know this will dramatically reduce malaria deaths – aid is working - and it will give so many mothers the chance to see their children grow up and watch as their futures unfold – something that I was tragically denied with Harry.

We are on the cusp of a historic moment and I hope others join me in seeing how important it is for us to act now so parents stop losing their children to this horrific disease. One day soon we could truly be the generation to beat malaria once and for all. And I vow to keep telling Harry’s story until that day comes.

Jo Yirrell is Special Ambassador for Malaria No More UK.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria is saving lives from deadly yet preventable diseases; 17 million so far to be exact. Having seen and experienced these diseases first hand – I can categorically say that aid is working.

I first learnt about The Global Fund during a difficult time in my life; in 2002 when I was diagnosed with HIV whilst pregnant. Back then the healthcare system in Kenya was a mess, treatment was hard to access and discrimination was rife. It felt like my life had no hope.

But my struggles don’t end with HIV. I have lost count of the number of times my children and I have had malaria. It used to be very common in Kenya, particularly during the rainy season. Every day the village would echo with cries from families mourning the loss of a child; tragic, needless deaths.

I had malaria three times alone when I was pregnant. Fortunately I was diagnosed early and received treatment quickly, but only because I knew pregnant women are more susceptible to malaria as immunity is lower, and what symptoms to look out for and how to get the right medicine. The reality is, this is not the case for many women, in fact, a friend of mine tragically died while pregnant. She became ill during her last trimester and was given improper medical advice and treatment – by the time she got to hospital it was too late, and she died five hours later. It was devastating.

The situation in Kenya has improved now and malaria cases have dramatically declined. But there is much more still to do. In particular, we must scale up rapid diagnosis and treatment during outbreak seasons, increase the supply of mosquito nets, and do more community outreach around malaria prevention. HIV treatment and transmission has improved too, and women now deliver HIV free children. Discrimination is still a big issue though.

Watching your children suffer is heart-breaking. But the good news is that we have the tools to prevent further suffering if we give ambitiously to The Global Fund to reach more people, in more countries. Together, I know we can stamp out these epidemics.

Maurine Murenga is a Kenyan Mother, Global Fund Advocate, malaria survivor and person living with HIV.