Today is World Malaria Day. You didn’t know? What exactly does that mean? Every day, while we go about our daily life—school, work, grocery shopping, movies, restaurants—mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite are making people sick in countries around the world where malaria still exists. We used to have malaria here in the U.S., but we wiped it out in the 1950s. Malaria still exists in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and today is the day chosen to draw attention to this horrible disease and how you can help fight it.
A person, most often a child, gets infected with malaria every minute.
But, the good news is that fewer people are getting sick. There’s been significant progress in the fight against malaria in the past 10 years. Longer lasting bed nets treated with insecticides provide better protection to help prevent people from getting infected, new tests are available that can relatively quickly diagnose if a person has malaria, and there are more effective drugs to treat people who get malaria. All this has happened in the past 10 years, and it’s contributed to saving over one million lives. In 43 of the 99 countries with malaria, the number of people getting infected is half as high as it was 10 years ago.
While this represents significant progress, we can’t stop now. Too many times in the past, we’ve succeeded in reducing malaria cases, but did not keep up the fight. The malaria parasite evolves, and resistance is developing to both the drugs and the insecticides used to treat the bed nets. We need to continue to invest in the development of new ways to prevent and treat malaria.
Just think how many more lives we can save by keeping up the effort that so many people have diligently contributed to already. We need to make sure that all children and parents sleep under bed nets at night, and have access to appropriate diagnosis and treatment if they do get sick from malaria. This will require continued leadership and funding from both countries where malaria is present and countries where it isn’t, but where people care about saving lives.
Below is a video of United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon talking about why the fight against malaria is so important.
If you want to help fight malaria, check out these organizations doing great work:
The Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria
President’s Malaria Initiative
Malaria No More
Nothing But Nets