A Malarial Mid-semester Break

Richard talking to a community health worker
Richard with a group of children
In the village of Bozoye 3

It’s the mid-semester break and for those on the MA International Policy and Diplomacy that means putting the finishing touches to the first essay. I’ve got to be honest, owing to my lack of entertainment in the evenings and at the weekends here in the far north of Central African Republic I’d pretty much got it down a few weeks ago, leaving me with a couple of edits to do before submission. I carried out those edits last week, job done.

Malaria test kit showing a positive test for Malaria
Not something I particularly enjoy seeing – a positive test for malaria

At the end of last week, I was doing a couple of readings for a weekly task when all of a sudden I began to feel utterly dreadful. Now, I work for an NGO in the struggle against malaria. I’m trained in the detection, treatment, and management of this particularly brutal disease. In 2015 I suffered from it four times but I’ve gone eight months without it – until this last weekend. It’s quite hard to describe how malaria feels to those who haven’t had it, my best effort would be to tell you that it feels like the worst hangover on earth, with added horrors.

Having tested positive and started the medications I didn’t pick up as normal over the next 24 hours. Still, it’s a fatal parasitic disease, it doesn’t play by our rules. Eventually I got there though. At this point I always feel pathetically grateful to the ‘inventor’ of the world’s most effective anti-malarial: Coartem. His name is Professor Yiqing Zhou – he’s 87 now and he’s credited with saving around 8-10 million lives (multiple infections in one person taken into account). Now that’s a legacy.

I’m British, born in the UK and brought up in the UK. I had no immunity to malaria when I started working in Africa and I cannot recover without Zhou’s discovery. I’ve had five bouts and I’ve recovered five times. I owe a great deal to that man.

Richard talking to a community health worker
Deep in conversation with a community health worker

In a couple of days I’ll head down to Bangui (capital of Central African Republic) where, not only will I eat pizza and drink French reds, I’ll also be trained as a third-party mediator. This is particularly exciting for me. I did a module on diplomacy earlier in my MA course and have been fascinated by diplomacy and mediation since, hence I immediately registered my interest when I heard that a team from a Canadian university was coming out to train willing volunteers. I already do a great deal of mediation in my position but I’ve largely picked that up intuitively. I’m looking forward to having an expert tell me how to do it, though I’ll always put my personal spin on things. Nothing wrong with that.

So, with malaria knocked over and almost ready to pack my bags for eleven days of semi-decent food and restocking my toiletries bag, I really should get back to analysing George W Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.

About Richard Bretherick 13 Articles
Final year MA International Policy and Diplomacy student. After twenty years in the military I eventually landed a job in the humanitarian industry, and I'm currently in the far north of Central African Republic managing a program in the fight against malaria. I love my job and I'm very lucky that I can say that.

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