SARAH Kirk was working as a volunteer in one of the biggest slums in the world when she caught malaria.
The Marrickville resident was working at a local health clinic in 2007 in Kibera, Nairobi, the biggest urban slum in Africa, when she fell seriously ill.
“At first it felt like a cold but a few weeks past and I wasn’t getting any better. I was taking anti-malarial medication but it did not work,” Sarah said.
Malaria can cause flu-like symptoms and vivid hallucinations. Extreme cases of malaria can cause severe headaches, diarrhoea and fevers, which can also cause the victim to fall into a coma and die.
Sarah, now 30, remembers how her bones felt like they were on fire and how energy sapping the disease was.
“My body was excruciatingly sore. I could feel where each individual bone was in my body. It was that painful,” Sarah added.
The disease is spread by an infected female Anopheles mosquito, which is also commonly found in Northern Australia.
“Frustratingly, it took three courses of treatment to eventually get rid of the disease,” Sarah, who was prescribed courses of Doxycycline to treat the disease, said.
“I was lucky to get over it – a lot of people don’t,” Sarah continued. Malaria causes 49,000 deaths in the Asia-Pacific each year and kills 650,000, many of whom are children, worldwide.
Sarah is also a Global Health Campaigns Manager at RESULTS International (Australia). Her role includes working closely with parliamentarians and members of the community to generate the public and political will to end poverty.
Coinciding with World Malaria Day on Friday, April 25, she plans to meet her Member of Parliament of Grayndler, Mr Anthony Albanese, to ask that he support an increase in funding to discover a more effective vaccine to combat malaria.
In March, a Senate Committee reviewing the foreign aid program recommended that the Government increase investment in its Medical Research Strategy to $50 million per year.
“Despite the fact that malaria has been around for centuries there is still no effective vaccine to tackle the disease,” Sarah continued.
Earlier in April, a new breed of mosquito was discovered in Mozambique and is causing unprecedented cases of malaria prevalence and mortality.
“An investment of $50 million in medical research, which includes malaria, will go an enormously long way in ending the disease in our region once and for all.”