Africa is a beautiful continent.
It is not dark.
It is a virgin land with a lot of unexploited natural and human resources.
The Continent is known for various species of birds, animals, rivers, mountains and other tourist attractions.
It is the only Continent with an enviable excellent record of hospitality worldwide.
It is an emerging tourist destination in the world.
No wonder the Continent is becoming the toast of European and Asian investors.
Many foreign tourists describe Africa as a "lovely and beautiful continent.
" Raffaela, an Italian tourist friend described the Continent as a "heaven with malaria.
" Malaria is a household name in Africa.
It has become so well known that even teenagers (usually rural folks) across the Continent could "diagnose" the disease and sometimes prepare concoctions as a cure to the disease.
Malaria is caused by a parasite called plasmodium, which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes.
In human body, the parasites multiply in the liver, and then infect red blood cells.
Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache and vomiting and usually appear between 10 days and 15 days after bites from the anopheles mosquito.
The disease is described as life-threatening by many experts.
Mr Kwame Gakpey, a Behavioral Change Communication Specialist of the Ghana National Malaria Control Programme, described malaria as "not just a disease but a killer.
" Malaria Report 2009 states that half of the world's population is at risk of the disease and an estimated 243 million cases led to nearly 863,000 deaths in 2008.
It is the number one killer in Africa - an African child dies every 45 seconds of malaria.
It is estimated that the Continent loses at least 12 million dollars per year in direct losses - through illness, treatment, premature death and many more than that, in loss of economic growth according to a Global Malaria Action Plan.
In Ghana for example, malaria is the number one cause of morbidity with about 37.
5 per cent of all Out-Patient Department attendances.
In addition to its health toll, malaria places a heavy economic burden on many endemic countries on the Continent, contributing to the cycle of poverty and limiting economic development and the general beauty of the Continent.
Over the past decade, there has been substantial progress in raising awareness about malaria, its treatment and the use of tools such as Long-Lasting Insecticide Nets (LLINs), indoor residual spraying (IRS) in which insecticides are sprayed on the walls of homes.
Tools such as Intermittent Preventive Treatment (IPT) for pregnant women and vector control measures were all used based on scientific evidence yet the disease remained stubbornly endemic on the Continent killing its labour force and overshadowing its bright future.
This is largely due to misconceptions, perceptions and prevention and treatment barriers among the people.
A large population of Africans even some urban dwellers consider malaria as a "normal" sickness.
They see it as part of life for the African as such does not seek treatment for the disease with the belief that the disease will leave by itself.
Many still hold the belief that some evil spirits cause malaria through nightmares and prefer seeking spiritual assistance in response to the disease to attending health facilities.
These crop of people are exposed to unfriendly weather conditions; they sleep in the open and are bitten by mosquitoes getting multiple infections at the shrines where they seek cure for malaria.
It is also perceived that one could get malaria as long as one stays or work under the Sun, live in unventilated room or eat oily foods.
A survey by the Ghana National Malaria Control Programme in 2007 indicates that while a large majority of people could state the role of mosquitoes in malaria transmission, many still hold additional and conflicting notions.
These conflicting notions make them engage in practices that expose them to malaria.
For instance many are still reluctant to use Artemisinin-Based Combination Therapy (ACTs) and others have problems sleeping in LLINs.
Though many have the LLINs, usage is low as people complained that they do not feel comfortable sleeping in them as they feel like corpses.
Some people leave empty cans, flower pots and dug outs to collect rain water which serve as breeding places for the anopheles mosquitoes while they interestingly refer to refuse dumps and filthy gutters as breeding places for those mosquitoes.
It must be known that anopheles mosquitoes which transmit malaria do not breed in dirty stagnant water but clean water, so gutters and refuse dumps could not serve as breeding places for them.
Today, there is a global initiative to achieve a universal coverage of reducing global malaria cases from 2,000 levels by 50 per cent in 2010 and by 75 per cent in 2015.
The Global Fund is intervening to make malaria drugs available and affordable to enhance case management and treatment towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goals Four and Six.
7 billion dollars is being invested in Africa this year on malaria control, elimination and research, according to Global Malaria Action Plan.
All these interventions and investments will become meaningless if we Africans ourselves fail to contribute to efforts at fighting malaria- our greatest enemy which is killing our children, love ones and inhibiting our socio-economic advancement.
We have to change our behaviour, erroneous perceptions and misconceptions on malaria to live long and enjoy the beauty of our lovely Continent.
There is the need for a change in attitude and strict adherence to the dos and don'ts in malaria prevention and treatment so that about 4.
2 million lives could be saved by 2015 in the highest malaria burden countries in Africa.
A lower malaria burden will yield economic benefits and reduce poverty.
This means more people at work, more children at school, a break in poverty cycle and preservation of a beautiful Continent.
It is, therefore, important that we sleep under LLINs 365 nights, seek early treatment when malaria attacks to shorten its duration, prevent complications and save lives that would develop Africa.
We must also begin to accept and use ACTs as one of the best treatments available in response to malaria for, "Malaria control saves lives today and prevents death tomorrow.
" By Anthony Bells Kafui Kanyi.