When the doctors told my family that my sister Joy had malaria, I didn't understand. She was in Nigeria and we were here in the states. Joy was pregnant and happy, getting ready for her return back to the states in just a few days time. She never made that trip back. I didn't really know what malaria was. That day -- a decade ago -- I didn't know that a simple mosquito bite could change everything.
Whenever I see sisters playing, I miss Joy. She had a beautiful light about her. It's still so hard to believe that she's gone. My niece or nephew would be 10 years old this year.
I've been living in Nigeria for the past few years, and I've seen the deadly toll malaria takes on families and communities. Children miss school. Adults miss work. Pregnant woman and babies die. But it doesn't have to be this way. Malaria is completely preventable and treatable. It takes testing, bed nets and leaders funding strategies that work. It takes all of us doing our part to keep malaria in the spotlight.
I'm optimistic we can get rid of this disease - with focus, commitment and leadership. No one should have to lose a loved one to a mosquito bite.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Malaria No More, in conjunction with World Malaria Day. To see all the posts in the series, please visit here. To learn more about Malaria No More, please visit here. And follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #WorldMalariaDay.