Botswana malaria risk for children
Botswana is a country mostly free of nasty diseases and natural disasters but there is a malaria risk for children and adults. This is of great importance to families travelling to Botswana on safari: there is no vaccine against malaria and it is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease.
The good news, however, is that malaria is a risk that can be managed effectively. You can significantly reduce the Botswana malaria risk for children by knowing when to travel, where to go, and how to manage the risk while on safari.
It’s also vital to consult a medical practitioner at least two weeks before you travel for the latest advice and risk-mitigation strategies appropriate for your needs. Most safari travellers to Botswana will take some form of anti-malaria medication.
WHAT IS MALARIA?
Malaria is a disease caused by a microscopic parasite called a Plasmodium which is introduced into the human body by the bite of a certain mosquito – Anopheles gambiae. An infected mosquito is the plasmodium’s carrying agent – the vector – and is unaffected by the parasite. Malaria in humans, however, manifests itself a week or more after being bitten by an infected mosquito with fever, chills and sweating (much like the ‘flu’). It is safely curable with prompt medical intervention.
BOTSWANA MALARIA RISK FOR CHILDREN: WHEN IS IT LOWEST?
Malaria is present in Botswana all year but the highest risk months are between November and May – the summer rainy season, in other words. Travelling to Botswana in June, July or August puts you on safari in the winter dry season: there’s virtually no rain or standing water for mosquitos to breed in and the weather is mild to cold – indeed, it’s literally freezing at night in some destinations. Such conditions send most of the malaria-carrying mosquitos into the dormant phase of their life cycle and your chance of being bitten are greatly reduced.
It’s equally dry in September and October but much warmer than in mid-winter. Botswana’s malaria risk for kids is still very low at this time however as there is so little standing water in the landscape. And because wildlife concentrates around the few remaining water sources, the low-risk June to October period is also the best time for game viewing in Botswana – a win-win scenario for safari travellers with children.
MALARIA RISK FOR CHILDREN: WHERE ARE THE SAFEST PLACES?
Absent from the capital Gaborone and the south of the country, malaria in Botswana is a risk in the central and northern areas of the country. This unfortunately coincides with most of the national parks and game reserves – Chobe, Moremi the Okavango Delta and the Kalahari reserves – but there several points to bear in mind.
Malaria is disease that thrives on people living closely together in areas of poor infrastructure – the very opposite environment of the Okavango Delta or Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The risk of malaria in Botswana’s safari destinations is always low: by their very nature they are sparsely populated (if at all) and located well away from high-risk urban areas.
There is also a difference in risk within Botswana’s malaria belt. The highest risk of contracting malaria is the northern Chobe/Zambezi region (the more populated Chobe River and Victoria Falls areas) while the lowest risk is in the Kalahari region.
This is not so important when travelling to Botswana during the June to October dry season but needs consideration if you plan to go on safari during the wet summer months. It may be worth concentrating your game viewing in Botswana’s relatively drier (and more remote) destinations such as Chobe’s Savuti region and the Kalahari parks. And anyway, these areas are arguably at their best in the Green Season – it’s the birthing season for antelope (great for predators) and the best time for birding plus there are large movements of animals into these areas – zebra, elephant and buffalo especially.
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE
It may be a cliché but it makes a lot of sense: the malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquito is active from dusk to dawn and so you can reduce your chances of being bitten to practically zero by taking certain preventative measures.
In fact, many of these measures have been already been taken care of: your accommodation is virtually insect-proof and your bed protected by a large mosquito net. Some of Botswana’s hotel-type lodges are air-conditioned while many of the tented camps have electric fans. Insect-repellent spray or lotion is standard-issue in your room.
Then it’s all about clothing: make sure you and the kids are wearing long-sleeved tops and long pants (trousers) before the sun goes down. Apply repellent at the same time to exposed areas of skin like ankles, necks and the backs of your hands. Do the same before going out on your morning game drive – mosquitos like to hide in game drive vehicles – and wear relatively thick clothing: mosquitos can bite through thin fabrics.
BOTSWANA MALARIA RISK FOR KIDS: THE BOTTOM LINE
Great strides have been made to eradicate malaria in Botswana in recent years but it remains an ever-present, if largely seasonal, risk. You’ll need to seek professional medical advice before you travel – especially if you plan to take anti-malaria medication – but by choosing when and where to go you can greatly reduce the malaria risk for children and even more so with careful adherence to preventative measures while on safari.
- Botswana Family Safaris – Main Page
- Travelling to Botswana with toddlers and babies
- Travelling to Botswana with children
- Travelling to Botswana with Teens
- Kids Activities In Botswana
- Is Botswana Safe for Children