Millions of mosquito nets are being given out in Africa’s biggest malaria project.
|French troops are spraying insecticide in Reunion in
an attempt to bring the disease under control
Mosquitos are arguably the deadliest insects in the world with malaria killing more than one million people each year.
But malaria is not the only disease they carry.
Chikungunya is spreading through the tropical regions off the African Coast as far as India and more than one million people have been infected with the disease in the last year.
In the Swahili language chikungunya means “bent back” because people struck by the disease end up with a hunched back and intense pain.
Al Jazeera travelled to Reunion Island, an overseas department of France in the Indian Ocean, where the disease has killed 315 people since it broke out in March 2005.
Chinkungunya has put the tropical island into crisis. Tens of thousands of people have fallen sick and old and vulnerable victims have died. It has also devastated the tourism industry.
The disease is so much a part of life on the island that a satirical pop song about it has hit the charts there.
|Chinkungunya suffers end up with a hunched
back and intense pain
At night, the streets are taken over by mobile teams spraying insecticide and by day the French Army is deployed on patrols to continue the operation.
In the rural areas they are trying to eliminate mosquito larvae from anywhere they can find standing water.
We met Louise Maillot who has been suffering from intense pain in her legs and depression since chikungunya struck.
“I’m waiting to die,” she told Al Jazeera. “I’m praying for the good Lord to take me.”
Patrick Labatt, a family doctor, was clear about the task he faces.
“We can’t treat the disease itself but we can relieve the pain with drugs,” he said.
“The world is not doing enough – it is a curable and a preventable disease”
Buulay, Johannesburg, South Africa
Dr Labatt said the disease itself is not fatal but anyone with a weak heart, for example, may not survive.
Before Al Jazeera left the island we met Marie Aline, a singer who says she can no longer perform because she has painful joints and depression, months after chikungunya changed her life.
She lost her second child from a miscarriage that the doctor told her was caused by the disease.
Marie was writing a song. The lyrics strike a different tone to the pop music she used to compose.
“I’m crying day and night,” she wrote. “I’ll never know who you look like … But I will fight to the end to know the truth about chikungunya.
“I’ll never accept your loss and I’ll never accept this disease.”