Before we moved to Africa, we got a lot of shots. We went to a travel clinic and pretty much got everything they recommended. We even considered getting rabies shots, just in case, because of the packs of wild dogs that roam the streets. I’m glad we didn’t, because it wouldn’t have been necessary. This is also how we found out I’m allergic to thimerosal, and the resulting puffiness and red welts on my face are why I can’t wait for my current passport to expire.

We also bought enough malaria medicine to last us for a while. As is our wont, we read the information on it, and were somewhat amused and horrified to find out that the side effect of that particular kind of medicine is insanity. That’s not an exaggeration. Paranoia, hallucinations, and some suicides were mentioned. Nonetheless, we bought quite a lot of it and then never took it. We ended up donating it all to a clinic in Nouakchott.

There isn’t a lot of malaria in Nouakchott, where it’s dry enough most of the year that mosquitoes aren’t a huge problem. The doctors I knew who lived there took prophylactics all the time, but they’re doctors. Doctors are paranoid anyway, even without being on malaria prevention meds. We only took it when we went to Senegal or to villages in the south of Mauritania along the river, buying the medicine in syrup form for children, this really nasty coffee-flavoured syrup. As they got older and as more medicines have developed, we got to the point where we only had to take one pill a week for a month after returning from an affected area. No one in the Nomad family ever got it.

But I’ve seen plenty of others who did; enough to know what a horrible disease malaria is. It kills, quite unnecessarily, 1000s of people every year, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa; people who, unlike us, can’t afford to pay a few dollars for medicines to cure this preventable disease. The UN declared Friday, April 25, as World Malaria Day, and has started a big push to get treated mosquito nets into the hands of those who can’t afford them. This simple step goes a long way in preventing the disease. Compassion International is joining the effort, and announced Bite Back, a program to get these mosquito nets into the homes of the poor. For only $10, which you must admit isn’t much, you can donate one. And, if you donate one while thinking of Shalee and her birthday, and then leave her a comment and let her know, she’ll enter you to win a prize. I mean, not only can you help the poor, but you can possibly get a prize for it.

$10 for a treated net. If you were at risk, you’d get one in a second.