A Nigerian doctor who lends his voice — literally — to the Malaria Must Die campaign fronted by David Beckham, tells his personal story about contracting and treating the disease.
As a boy growing up in Nigeria, Dr Elvis Eze contracted malaria not once, but four times. And those were just the times that were confirmed.
“In Nigeria, malaria is normalised,” he explains. “People say: ‘I had malaria, but I’m well now.’” Yet the disease should not be dismissed so easily, he insists — because malaria kills.
“Each time I had fever, my body ached and I felt as though I was going to die,” says Dr Eze. “However, thankfully, I never had severe malaria. With the extreme version of the disease — which is usually more common in children — patients can become unconscious and start convulsing.” If untreated, it can be fatal.
I was lucky malaria didn’t kill me
Looking back, Dr Eze — who now works in emergency medicine at Southend University Hospital — realises that he could easily have lost his life had the illness progressed to the severe stage. “And that messes with my head,” he admits. “As a kid, I never really grasped the severity of my situation.”
Becoming a doctor, working in emergency rooms in Lagos and seeing people die from the disease changed all that. “That was when it dawned on me that malaria was a big problem and something had to be done about it,” he says. “Being on the frontline opened my eyes. That was my inspiration to tell my personal story and take part in the Malaria Must Die campaign.”
Dr Eze’s voice appears in the Malaria Must Die campaign video speaking Yoruba through David Beckham (using AI technology) inviting people to sign up to the world’s first voice petition to help end the disease.
Better collaboration is needed to defeat the disease
“When I was growing up in Nigeria I followed the English Premier League and always knew who David Beckham was,” he says. “Many people in my country do because we watch football a lot. I was on social media yesterday and MPs were re-tweeting information about the campaign. So someone with David Beckham’s profile and reach can get the message out to the right people.”
That’s important, but so is better collaboration between numerous stakeholders, notes Dr Eze. For example, if everyone from political leaders and medical researchers to organisations with innovative technologies talk to each other, the goal of halving malaria across the Commonwealth by 2023 is within our grasp. “We have to remember that this is a disease that is preventable and treatable,” he says. “If we follow a two-pronged approach of preventing it and treating it appropriately, we will be able to eradicate malaria in our lifetime.”
Add your voice to the Voice Petition at www.malariamustdie.com
By Tony Greenway