All of us, at one time or another, has experienced the common cold and its miserable effects – the sneezing, coughing, fever and fatigue type of unpleasantness that ordinarily accompanies it. Now, harken back for a moment to a time when you were dealing with a cold; however, only now, magnify its intensity and also imagine you have just returned from a trip to any one of over 100 developing nations located in Asia, Africa or Latin America. If you were to walk into your healthcare professional’s office presenting these same symptoms, he or she would reasonably and correctly conclude – based on your recent travels – that what you were suffering from was malaria. Yes, malaria!
THE GLOBAL HEALTH SCOURGE
Malaria is a global health dilemma afflicting millions of lives, particularly those living on the continent of Africa. With proper care and treatment, and the institution of certain life-saving measures like insecticide-treated bed nets, the disease can be kept at bay. Unfortunately, the logistical roadblocks that occur in getting the bed nets to those most in need and the continued funding for treatment programs are major hurdles that must be overcome. Bed nets are enormously effective against the mosquitoes that cause malaria. In addition, great success has been achieved when treated with the insecticide in killing the mosquitoes that transmit the disease.
According to Chris Helfrich, director of the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets program, who was quoted in a special section of the Financial Times on April 25th coinciding with the United Nations World Malaria Day, “Nets have played a huge role in helping us achieve the progress we’ve made in the past decade and will remain a critical piece in helping rid the world of malaria.” http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/9979d0d4-a03b-11e2-a6e1- The Nothing But Nets initiative is done at the grassroots level and individuals can assist in this effort by donating $10 to the campaign. The $10 donations go a long way in assisting the peoples of these lands in their bid to fight this deadly disease. (For those wishing to help, please visit the following website for further information: http://www.nothingbutnets.net/its-easy-to-help/)
The Nothing But Nets campaign is working extremely hard this year in an effort to reach all those who need an insecticide-treated bed net. For example, in the Central African Republic (CAR) the UN Foundation campaign works in conflict areas in the northwest region of the CAR to help deliver insecticide-treated bed nets. Many of the people in this area are internally displaced persons and are considered highly vulnerable. In the nation of Chad, the statistics are quite alarming. There are 500,000 cases each year, and 80% of the population is at risk. The greater tragedy in Chad is the number of children afflicted with malaria; the country has the fifth-highest death rate for children under 5-years old. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is performing excellent work providing bed nets to families in need. With individual donor support, Nothing But Nets can supplement the work of UNICEF in providing bed nets to those requiring them. The campaign partners with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to funnel 185,000 bed nets to the Katanga Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Travelling in a southeasterly direction from the DRC, Nothing But Nets reaches the island country in the Indian Ocean of Madagascar where one finds 2 million cases of malaria per year. UNICEF has called upon Nothing But Nets to help distribute nets in the eastern part of the country. Unforgiving weather has caused an increase in the number of malaria cases. The West African nation of Togo has been a case study in positive news on the African continent as insecticide-treated bed nets were able to be distributed to all families. Unfortunately, on the downside, an inaccurate census count incorrectly identified the population; as a result, many were left without the life-saving nets. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) as well as U.N. agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNICEF have joined with Nothing But Nets to assist the government of Togo obtain the balance of the nets needed. Finally, in Zimbabwe, the news can be summed up in one word: bleak. Fifty percent of the population runs the risk of contracting malaria. Zimbabwe’s National Malaria Control Program has a goal to provide the entire nation with a bed net. UMCOR, along with Nothing But Nets, has increased its efforts for both bed net disbursement as well as increasing ways to prevent malaria in the Chimanimani District of Manicaland Province – deemed a high intensity area for malaria in the country.
U.N. WORLD MALARIA REPORT 2012
Towards the end of December 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its World Malaria Report that indicated a slowdown in the level of funding for crucial anti-malaria programs threatening to minimize the gains made thus far against the disease. Based on estimates given, funding needs to reach $5.3 billion; the figure now stands at $2.3 billion.
According to Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, “Behind the statistics and graphs lies a great and needless tragedy: malaria – an entirely preventable and treatable disease – still takes the life of an African child every minute.” The U.N. global health organization estimates 660,000 people died from the disease in 2010 and each year 219 million people become infected globally. Dr. Chan continued to say that, “We are three years away from the target date set for the Millennium Development Goals…50 countries are on track to reduce their malaria case incidence rates by 75% in line with the World Health Assembly and Roll Back Malaria targets…these 50 countries account for 3% (or 7 million) of the total estimated malaria cases worldwide. International targets for malaria will not be attained unless considerable progress is made in the 14 highest burden countries…an estimated 80% of malaria deaths.” http://www.who.int/malaria/publications/world_malaria_report_2012/report/en/index.html
ROLL BACK MALARIA
The Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership which comprises a conglomeration of most malaria-afflicted countries, development partners, the private sector, NGOs, academia and foundations have each taken important measures to control the disease. The RBM created the Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP) consisting of three main elements: Control, Elimination and Research. The ultimate goal of RBM, of course, is “global eradication”. In time, with each of these groups working together, it is my steadfast belief that this will be achieved. However, what impedes the work of reputable organizations and undermines their efforts is what the Wall Street Journal reported in a front page investigative story on May 29th titled: “Fake-Pill Pipeline Undercuts Africa’s Battle With Malaria” written by Benoit Faucon, Colum Murphy and Jeanne Whalen.
A discovery by investigators in Angola of a shipment from China led them to find that the antimalaria drug Coartem, manufactured by the pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG, was counterfeit. This is the type of reporting that warrants wider global attention. This battle is difficult enough to wage for those on the frontlines without also having to fight the unscrupulous amongst us who look to profit at the expense of individuals suffering from this dreaded disease.