I only became aware that malaria can kill adults such as myself after becoming an adult. I had thought that only kids were easy prey for the disease. I learned my lesson in November 2006. That is when I fell seriously ill, and my blood test revealed that I had contracted malaria. I had a high fever. I could not keep anything down, even water. I was stuck in bed for two weeks. I had trouble walking as I was very weak. Within a few days, I lost several kilos. This was my sad experience with malaria.
It took three shots of anti-malaria drugs at the Medical Center of the police force in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, to save my life. Since then, I have understood that I was nearly as likely to die from malaria as young children were. I made the decision to sleep under a mosquito net and have done so every night since my nearly fatal malaria episode. Unfortunately, the net does not provide 100 percent protection because no one can stay under it day and night. I remain vulnerable to mosquitoes despite its protection. That is the sad truth.
What would Burkina gain if we could design a vaccine against malaria?
If a malaria vaccine were to become available in Burkina Faso, thousands of families would breathe a huge sigh of relief. Every year, malaria kills many thousands of people and wreaks havoc on families. You have to go to the largest hospital in the country, the Yalgado Ouédraogo Hospital, during the rainy season to see first-hand the suffering among malaria patients. The medical staff is overwhelmed, there is a shortage of beds, and the corridors are full of patients.
Meanwhile, as patients are trying to regain their health, they are still being bitten by mosquitoes that are so prevalent. We need a vaccine that could help the people of Burkina Faso prevent this deadly disease. Such is my hope, and I encourage researchers around the world and their partners to invest all their energy to give humankind an anti-malaria vaccine. We managed to eradicate smallpox, and my hopes are high that we can get rid of malaria as well, for the greater good of humanity and of Burkina Faso.