One Writer’s Imagination Helps Spread Awareness About the Deadly Disease
“All life is precious,” sighed Marcel, his translucent wings reflecting the midday sunlight. Marcel is a mosquito, and he agreed to speak with me for World Malaria Day.
I learned how to speak mosquito before studying overseas in college. I heard horror stories about the possible psychological side-effects associated with some malaria medications, and I figured if I learned the language, I could politely ask them not to bite me. I ended up taking the medication anyway, but luckily I seem to have dodged the side-effects and have stayed as sane and connected to reality as ever. But anyway, back to my interview with Marcel the mosquito.
C: There were an estimated 214 million cases of malaria in 2015 and approximately 438,000 deaths. What do you have to say for your species?
M: [deep sigh] Like I said, all life is precious. We get a bad rap. Those numbers hurt, but let me flip that question around to you. What do you have to say for your species?
C: How do you mean?
M: Look. Do you even know why our ladies bite? They bite to feed their babies. And they have a great many babies. In her lifetime, a lady mosquito could lay 10 batches of eggs, each bringing into this world hundreds of baby biters. Those babies, unfortunately, need blood. It’s a grim fact of nature, man. That maternal instinct isn’t just a human thing. Lucky for you, we can get blood from other mammals, birds, reptiles, and frogs. We’ve been around for way longer than you, over 40 million years at least (which you’d know if you’ve seen Jurassic Park). So, as your big brother in nature, let me give you some advice: you gotta look out for your own. You want to call me to account for malaria deaths, but why don’t you call humans to account? Malaria is preventable and curable with the right human response.
C: That’s a good point, Marcel. In our defense, we’ve been doing a lot better. Between 2000 and 2015, malaria incidence among populations at risk fell by 37% globally, according to the WHO 2016 Malaria Report. In that same period, malaria death rates among populations at risk fell by 60% globally. Islamic Relief fought back with their Bite the Bug campaign, providing medicine and anti-malarial mosquito nets.
M: [chuckles] Those nets are genius, man, we hate them. Props.
C: That’s good to know. So is it only female mosquitoes that bite?
M: Yeah, us men live gentle lives. We enjoy sipping fine nectar on the lake and making bets on which teenage humans will fall out of their canoe next. We’re not pretty like butterflies but share a similar disposition.
C: You guys have caused a lot of trouble for us. Have you ever done anything good?
M: I guess that depends how you define good. By the looks of it, you’re one of those hippie tree-huggers?
M: Well, nature could say thank you to us preserving the environment. As your species got greedy for land, pushing your way into lush forests and river valleys, with no regard for the animals or vegetation that had been there long before you, mosquitoes warded off settlers and preserved nature. Earth Day was just a couple days ago but nope, no one wants to thank the mosquitoes for keeping the rainforests alive for millions of generations.
C: Wow, I never thought of that. Have you heard about the severe drought currently devastating eastern Africa? Do droughts affect mosquitoes?
M: They absolutely do. Most of us breed in small pools of water, and with little rainfall we usually have no place to do so. Droughts often reduce the number of malaria cases, so that might be one less thing for them to worry about. But is Islamic Relief doing anything for the drought?
C: For sure, we have a whole emergency campaign launched to provide food aid and emergency nutritional support.
M: Nice. That’s how you look out for your own; I hope humans give you the support you need for that.
C: I hope so too. Any parting words for World Malaria Day?
M: Just like I said, it’s hard for me to apologize for something I can’t really do anything about. I hope humankind rallies behind organizations like yours to put an end to the disease and suffering. My dream is that one day, the thought of a mosquito will recall memories of weekend trips to lake houses and warm summer nights.
C: Well, an insect can dream.