Malaria kills a child every thirty seconds…

A bit off my usual beaten track, but I’m a big proponent of much of the work that the United Nations does, especially through UNESCO and UNICEF. If you’ve read my writings for a while, you’ve probably seen me talk about this before, and if you’ve ever gotten an Intuitive Systems holiday card, you won’t be surprised that they’re all from UNICEF too.
United Nations logoGenerally I feel that the United Nations is misunderstood and greatly maligned in the United States and that most people have no clue about the tremendous work that the organization does above and beyond the often empty pontification of the General Assembly. Fact is, though, the UN is trying to make the world a better place through so many different avenues it can make your head swim. From sexual abuse to childhood illnesses, poverty to giving downtrodden a political voice and control over their future, there’s quite a bit going on every week at UN offices throughout the world.
This week marks a very interesting conference that’s the subject of this blog post: The Safer Alternatives to DDT meeting in Geneva.
The UN release describes it thusly: “Some 80 delegates from governments, industry, research institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) today kicked off a three-day United Nations-backed meeting in Geneva focusing on cost effective and environmentally-friendly alternatives to DDT, a controversial chemical used to control malaria.”
What you might not realize about malaria is just what a major problem it is around the world. According to the US Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization, 300-500 million cases of malaria are reported annually and over one million people each year die of malaria.
Far more shocking is that in Africa, where it’s rife and mostly affects younger children (as it does throughout the globe) a child dies from malaria every thirty seconds.
Mosquito biting person: Imgage courtesy of ARN.orgIt’s safe to say that, yes, malaria is a major health problem, and it’s really amazing that in the 21st century when we have cellphones with more technological capabilities than the original Apollo lander and a global Internet that makes sharing information unbelievably simple and efficient that a disease transmitted by mosquitoes remains such a plague around the planet.
If you’re a cool-hearted businessperson and can read these statistics without any sort of emotional reaction, think about this: “Because malaria causes so much illness and death, the disease is a great drain on many national economies. Since many countries with malaria are already among the poorer nations, the disease maintains a vicious cycle of disease and poverty.”
Break these cycles of poverty and the world will unquestionably be a safer and better place.
This is the perfect example of a diseases where a vaccine would be a good solution (certainly better than DDT) but, as the CDC explains: “There is currently no malaria vaccine approved for human use. The malaria parasite is a complex organism with a complicated life cycle. Its antigens are constantly changing and developing a vaccine against these varying antigens is very difficult. In addition, scientists do not yet totally understand the complex immune responses that protect humans against malaria. However, many scientists all over the world are working on developing an effective vaccine. Because other methods of fighting malaria, including drugs, insecticides, and bed nets, have not succeeded in eliminating the disease, the search for a vaccine is considered to be one of the most important research projects in public health.”
I urge you to take a few minutes off today to think about the plague of malaria and what you can do to help out. Perhaps it’s a donation (there are a number of charities focused on breaking the malaria cycle), perhaps its just praying for a cure and for the souls of the twenty or thirty African children that died while you were reading this blog.
In this day and age when we seem to focus most of our attention on a small number of big issues, I find it helpful to expand my mind and my attention by remembering the less glamorous problems we all face too.

6 comments on “Malaria kills a child every thirty seconds…

  1. Um, I’m not sure of your point, Gerard. The entire point of the UN conference is that while DDT kills the mosquitoes that carry malaria, the chemical has a massive negative impact on the environment and is *not* a sustainable solution for either the regions affected or the planet as a whole.

  2. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,104889,00.html
    Its hard to give a lot of credence to UN opinion when they and organizations like USAID have been so disingenuous in the past about wanting to solve the problem. I know there is a lot of argument about the history, but the US and the UN have (hypocritically, I think) pressured many countries not to use DDT (after it had already been used to effectively control malaria here and in Europe). There has not been any other effective, affordable way to control it yet developed.
    I agree with you that it is a tragedy, and hope that the world can agree on at least using what is effective (not blanket use, but vectored use) to stop the effective genocide that malaria is.
    I know they say it is not a sustainable solution. They say that from their safe, mosquito-free countries.
    Sorry to be cynical, but I am.

  3. dear dave, what i saw in nigeria is ‘…every ten seconds malaria kills one african child…’. well, maybe this is due to different numbers from different orgnizations or contries.
    what i want to let you know is, ACTs, the only effective medicine at present time could be accessed at less than 25 US cents per dose, while the local people buy the drug at more than 10 USD in pharmacy, and UNCEF, the fundation of Gates are paying more than 80 cents to the pharmaceuticals, like novartis, for CHARITY.
    why???
    i work for a phamaceutical in China, i know the cost of the drug. i wish you can dig out a chance to localize the ACTS industry in Africa, a only way for african to get affordable treatment when hit by the parasites.

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