When I was invited to write about UN MDG6, a memory montage flooded my mind. The 16 pound two year-old I held in a Togolese hospital. The IV line in my arm, ringing in my ear, pounding headache and high fever. Mosquito net trucks pulling up to the Buduburam Refugee settlement in Ghana. My best friend’s daughter, limp in her mother’s arms, hanging onto life by a thread. International volunteers working in African villages, teaching classes about malaria prevention. The funeral dirge along the dusty Ghanaian roads, celebrating the life of a young child taken too early. Students at an international school in South Korea raising enough money to buy 200 mosquito nets for distribution in Uganda. Young mothers at my refugee camp office, asking for the funds to buy medicine for their sisters/brothers/mothers/husbands.
My son at 8-months-old in a Ghanaian emergency room, and the look of the attending doctor when he informed me that he was in critical condition.
Like the millions of people living in malaria endemic areas, I am well acquainted with the impacts of malaria.
When I lived in West Africa, daily routines served as a reminder that malaria is a deadly threat. Waking beneath a treated net, I checked my son each morning to ensure that a mosquito had not slipped in. At dusk, we spritzed our bodies with Deet rich mosquito repellant and, no matter the heat, covered ourselves with long shirts and trousers. Packing lists for vacations away always included a box of medicine to treat malaria, should any symptoms arise while out in the middle of nowhere, or worse yet, mid-air above the Atlantic. Every mosquito bite made my heart quicken. Every body ache, fever, and rash had us rushing to the clinic for a blood test to ensure that we were not carrying the deadly disease that manages to claim the life of one child per minute.
We had the resources to see a doctor for the diagnostic blood tests, $10 to buy the medication, and access to hospitals. While we went about our business of keeping safe, one child per minute died from malaria.When I lived in West Africa, daily events reminded me of how privileged I was to be able to take these steps to prevent being infected by the disease. We knew how to use a mosquito net, and had a bed above which it could be hung. We had mosquito repellant, and could take prophylaxis anti-malarial drugs. Though both my son and I were infected, we had the resources to see a doctor for the diagnostic blood tests, $10 to buy the medication, and access to hospitals. While we went about our business of keeping safe, one child per minute died from malaria.
One child per minute, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2012, the World Health Organization estimated 627,000 deaths from the disease, mostly among African children. Eighty percent of the deaths from malaria happened in fourteen African countries. The estimated cases of malaria: 207 million. These numbers don’t need to be the statistics; malaria is both preventable and treatable.
By 2015, Under Millennium Development Goal 6, the UN has a goal to make certain these numbers are significantly changed. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a goal to make these numbers read: 0. That’s right: ZERO.
Can it be done? Can Malaria truly be eradicated?
If current trends of declining rates in Malaria continue, we believe we can meet this goal.
I have seen firsthand the results of various organizations working diligently to make these goals a reality. In Ghana, USAID worked with PROMPT to distribute 12 million mosquito nets, and educate on their effective use. The Ghanaian Health Service sent doctors into remote regions to provide testing and treatment. Volunteers worked to close off sources of stagnate water to prevent mosquito growth. The World Health Organization provides resources to clinics and hospitals, and helps families to access the care that they need.
Various non-government organizations join in the efforts. In Uganda, an international volunteer organization called Meaningful Volunteer developed extensive and effective educational programs to educate about malaria, while also working to provide nets. Malaria No More is working throughout Africa to ensure that “every family in Africa has timely access to the tools they need to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria.”
While all of this is happening on the ground The Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation is supporting research and development in the search for a vaccine that would prevent malaria, while also developing more effective treatments.
When a disease impacts people so far away from our home, it is easy to think that we can’t have an impact, but I know that we can. I have first hand seen the amazing results when people around the world get involved.When I lived in West Africa, I was active in work to help prevent Malaria. Now that I am 5,000 miles away, living in New York, I can still be involved. I do so by teaching my students about malaria to raise their awareness, awakening in them a desire to take action. I help to raise funds for mosquito nets, and I contribute financially to organizations that are able to do the groundwork and research that I am no longer able to do.
The efforts are there, and with more global awareness, we can all contribute to the goal of eradicating malaria throughout the world.
You can get involved, too. To learn more about work being done to eradicate Malaria, visit the Bill and Milenda Gates Foundation. To learn more about how you can personally get involved, visit Malaria No More.
When a disease impacts people so far away from our home, it is easy to think that we can’t have an impact, but I know that we can. I have first hand seen the amazing results when people around the world get involved.
What will you do to help make MDG6 a reality?
Please join The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, World Moms Blog, Multicultural Kid Blogs and Girls Globe for a #Moms4MDGs Twitter Party to discuss #MDG6 on Wednesday, January 15th from 1-2pm EST and again at 9-10pm EST.