Living with Malaria

Living with Malaria

The eye-opening journey of one MAF family who have battled the side-effects of malaria for longer than anyone imagined.

World Malaria Day 2021: Sunday 25 April

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, 11 countries have reported zero indigenous malaria cases in 2020, while others have made impressive progress [1]. It’s even thought that a malaria vaccination could be in the pipeline, according to ground-breaking research at the University of Oxford [2] in April 2021.

World Malaria Day 2021 celebrates these incredible success stories.

However, more than one year into the pandemic, substantial disruptions to health services persist across the globe – and lockdowns and restrictions on the movement of people and goods have led to delays in the delivery of mosquito nets, sprays and other malaria treatments. Many of these items are flown on board MAF’s lifesaving aircraft.

It is thought that more than 400,000 people die of malaria every year – 67% of them children under 5 [3].

Hannah Mumford – a survivor

Hannah Mumford is a British mother of three, who has lived in Monrovia and N’Djamena since the family joined MAF in 2012. Married to pilot Andrew, the family dedicated their lives to helping reach isolated communities through MAF for nine years.

Mumford Family

Hannah laid down a career in Podiatry to support Andrew’s calling to fly with MAF, and has brought up their three children Zack, Esther and Jacob in Chad and Liberia. The family returned to Aberdeen in April 2021.

Hannah is also a malaria survivor.

'I didn’t know malaria could affect you like this,' Hannah admits. 'I thought you got treatment and got back to normal. This hasn’t been my experience at all.'

Early signs

Despite taking daily antimalarial medication as a family, Hannah found herself hospitalised on her birthday, 1 May 2019. Without many of the usual symptoms – including a temperature – she had spent three days battling what she thought was the regular fatigue of a busy mum.

Discharged the following day after receiving emergency treatment just in time, MAF colleagues and friends rallied around with meals as Hannah spent three agonising weeks unable to walk around her house.

'It was a difficult and painful time,' she admits. 'But we were so blessed by our community. Movement and conversations were absolutely exhausting. All I could do was pray.'

Ongoing symptoms

Two years on, Hannah still experiences debilitating symptoms.

In February 2021, Hannah suffered a sudden onset of fatigue and was unable to walk from her car to the front door of their home in MAF’s Monrovia compound – a distance of four metres.

'I sat for two hours in my front garden,' she says. 'My brain couldn’t tell my legs to move.' These ‘episodes’ have been a regular part of life, and come without warning.

Along with the sporadic attacks on her mobility, Hannah has also noticed long-term impacts on daily life. 'Simple tasks like going shopping can be a nightmare,' Hannah explains. 'If I haven’t got a list, I freeze. I used to be a busy, multitasking mum. But now I take things so much slower. It can be so frustrating.'

Leaning on God

Sometimes struggling with some of life’s daily tasks – like preparing meals or playing with her children – Hannah has learned to lean on God and counts her life a blessing. 'I’ve been pushed to my limits,' she admits, 'but God always picks you up and puts people in places where you need them most.'

'So many thousands of people die of malaria – I was fortunate enough to receive treatment in time. I am so blessed.'

'On the more difficult days, I often ask "why me?" It’s frustrating to stay behind from a family beach trip because I’m too exhausted, or when I can’t find the energy to make my favourite homemade pizza. But overall, I’m so grateful for how far I’ve come. God has healed me in the way He has, and I’ve made it through the worst part. So many thousands of people die of malaria – I was fortunate enough to receive treatment I time. I am so blessed.'

Never take a risk

Despite the progress that has been made in malaria prevention and treatment, in 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria.

Encountering many expats and tourists in Chad and Liberia who choose not to take antimalarial medication because of the uncomfortable side-effects, Hannah could not more strongly recommend people taking every precaution.

'I will never forget the strength God gave me in those darkest times, but equally I won’t forget those who are less fortunate than me.'

'Every two minutes a child dies of malaria somewhere in the world according to the WHO – many of them places where MAF carry out humanitarian work. I find it so sad that so many people don’t take antimalarials available to them. It’s scary that some people would take that risk – it’s really humbling that I’m here to tell my story.

'I will never forget the strength God gave me in those darkest times, but equally I won’t forget those who are less fortunate than me.'

Mumford Family in from of 5X-OPE