23 September 2005

This Is It!

This is it, as it would seem, for the next couple of years. We are once again this year flying across these United States on our way back to Africa. We have had a great year here in the US visiting many of you, learning new things and in general, having a good time. Now, because of our responsibilities in Côte d'Ivoire, we are on our way back to that part of the world that we call home. On one hand we are glad to return to something that is a little more normal and down to earth than the land of look alike Wal-Marts and Burger Kings. On the other hand, it is always hard to say goodbye to family and friends.

Even today as we gave my folks a last hug and said goodbye, I wondered how many more times we might get to hug them and spend time with them. As supportive as they are about our being in Africa, it is hard for them as they send us off to what is so unknown. Every day is like that though. One cannot know for sure what any day will bring. God does though and we rest in the assurance that He has got it all worked out. That does not preclude struggle and difficulty. Most often it is an integral part of our lives, but He knows what we need for each day.

It is why the blessing given before going to bed at night by the Dioula is: “Ala en kélén kélén wuri” translated meaning, “May God raise us each one up one by one”. The general notion is that if everyone gets up at different times in the morning that there has been no disaster and no death has taken place during the night. Of course as we leave family we are all hoping that during our separation we will not receive a call telling us of some tragedy or difficulty, but again we know and are certain that God is not obliged to have us walk smooth paths in this life. We are His and our lives are literally in His hands, regardless of how much we may think we can control them.

As much as we would like to control the world around us and all that it offers, we have seen that even in this great country, men are not immune to the violence of nature. As we have recently observed in the case of our countrymen to the south in the Gulf States, we can build dams and levies and other great engineering marvels to keep back the rivers and the sea. With these levies however, as in the case of our rivers, we have simply succeeded in raising the level of our rivers and creating even a greater need for more engineering marvels. As in the case of some cities, we have found that the levels of the sea can at times overwhelm our best attempts to hold them back.

Returning to Africa our thoughts turn to the realities of life on that continent. I find myself thinking about the fact that the world’s number one killer, malaria is still alive and well in Africa. I just read, in the Delta Airlines September 2005 Sky magazine, an article that said that every day the number of children that die each day from malaria could fill seven jumbo jets! The fact that the majority of those deaths are in sub-Sahara Africa makes it a rather unimportant issue in the West. Having experienced malaria first hand and having seen colleagues from both Africa and the US loose children to this disease; it angers me that so little is being done to fight it.

Recently I had a high fever which took me one Saturday while at the drop zone. A skydiving friend told me of his neighbor, Dr. Makler, who has done extensive research in malaria research. This skydiver called Dr. Makler who was very excited to see me at his home. That afternoon he had me drive up to see him so that he could take some blood samples and test for the disease. He not only tested me but he also gave me a contact where I could pick-up a self test that he had developed but which was being marketed by someone else. I actually tested negative that afternoon but he was fairly sure I had malaria. When I got home I took some meds that we can get in Côte d'Ivoire but which the FDA in the US have apparently yet not approved. Dr. Makler said that that what I had at home was the best medicine that I could take for malaria. In the end I took the meds and felt better after a few more bad spells.

One of the interesting things about Dr. Makler is that he has come up with a self test using small blood samples, strips of paper and a buffer. If the test is done correctly you can tell that malaria is present in the blood as well as indicating what kind of malaria it is, without having to have a full laboratory available. This is very interesting in light of the fact that it is still a number one killer in our part of the world. So many times we are treating non malarial fevers with malaria drugs simply because we assume that fever is malaria in this part of the world, which many times it is. With such a simple test available we could be more precise in the treatment of this disease. The following websites are interesting for the fight against this disease: http://www.malariatest.com/ and http://www.accessbio.net/.

So, here we are, back in Africa. Angelika is in Bamako, Mali I hope and I arrived in Abidjan last night. Aside from loosing two bags, the trip went well and I slept well last night. If you have just read through all that I have written above you might want to remember that the difficulties we experience are only occasional. For the most part we are healthy and life is normal. I have meetings scheduled for today and I am not too concerned about malaria. We mention these things to raise awareness not to alarm. I guess that at times alarming can raise awareness and that raised awareness can produce action. Yep, we would like to see action! Check out the above mentioned sites and get involved if you think you can.

No comments: