Malaria ordeal inspires Denise to live on £1 a day

A youth worker who almost died from malaria after volunteering in west Africa is to try and live on £1 a day to raise awareness of how cheap it is to combat the disease.

Denise Donnelly, from Coalisland, Co Tyrone took up the anti-poverty campaign after being inspired by thoughts of dying children while undergoing lifesaving treatment herself in hospital.

“I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have survived,” she said.

“Throughout my time in hospital, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the children who die needlessly from this disease every day because they do not have access to simple lifesaving solutions such as mosquito nets, malaria tests and medicines.”

Around the world 1.2 billion people live below the poverty line on £1 a day for all their needs including food, drink, shelter, healthcare, education and transport.

Ms Donnelly’s challenge, to live on that amount each day for the next five days, is part of the Live Below the Line campaign which coincides with World Malaria Day.

The 23-year-old returned from three months volunteer youth work in Sierra Leone last September and within three days had been rushed to hospital with early symptoms of malaria including a sore throat, stomach cramps, being unable to walk or stand and a 39.9C fever (104F).

She had contracted the deadliest strain of the disease after neglecting to take anti-malarial tablets on several occasions, including when she was in hospital with typhoid.

“A 2% parasite count in the blood was considered extreme and mine was at 7%," she said.

"I remember doctors coming in to look at me simply because they couldn’t believe I was still alive. When my mum and sister came to visit, all I could do was cry: ’I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die’."

Ms Donnelly said thoughts of youngsters dying while she was being saved by specialist medics at the infectious diseases centre in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast inspired her to take up the campaign.

“Malaria claims the life of a child every minute, yet it would cost less than £1 to treat and help save a life. I want to use my experience to make a real difference and save lives,” she said.

Denise while she was volunteering in Sierra Leone

She said she hopes that by taking on the £1 a day challenge she can raise awareness about the devastating impact of malaria and encourage people to sponsor her to help save lives for Malaria No More UK. The charity works to help save lives with a focus on young children in Africa.

Tara Sherjan, Malaria No More UK’s community fundraising manager and fellow malaria survivor, is also taking up the challenge.

“Denise is a real inspiration, using her story to help inform, inspire and encourage others to get involved in the malaria fight,” she said.

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