24 April 2014

world malaria day - 2014.

Did you know that tomorrow is World Malaria Day? Well, it is. In fact, it is commemorated each year on 25 April.

Ashley and I live in a part of the world that is deeply effected by malaria, so in recognition of the day, I would like to help spread awareness about malaria: what it is, why it matters, and what you can do about it.

Photo Credit: UN

What it is.

World Malaria Day was first "celebrated" in 2007 by the World Health Organization (WHO). The intent of the day is to recognize the tremendous need for investment and political commitment to prevent and control malaria.

But what is malaria?

Fundamentally, malaria is a disease of poverty. Without getting too scientific and burdensome, malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Most bites occur between dusk and dawn.

Symptoms appear seven or more days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. These include fever, headache, chills and vomiting. If not treated, malaria can quickly become life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs.

Despite the gravity of this disease, it is preventable and curable. In fact, increased malaria prevention and control measures are significantly reducing the dastardly effects of malaria in many places. But we're not done yet.

Why it matters.

Roughly half of the world's population is at risk of malaria. In 2013, 97 countries and territories had ongoing malaria transmission. If that doesn't get your attention, maybe this will: one child dies every minute from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.

Since 2000, global efforts to eliminate malaria have saved an estimated 3.3 million lives. However, the job is far from finished. Malaria still kills an estimated 627,000 people every year, largely children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa. The good news is that malaria mortality rates have fallen by 42% globally since 2000, and by 49% in Africa.

Why is malaria so bad in Africa? Malaria transmission is more intense in places where the mosquito lifespan is longer and where it prefers to bite humans rather than other animals. Well, guess what? The long lifespan and strong human-biting habit of the African vector species of malaria is the reason why 90% of the world's malaria deaths occur in Africa.

But it's not just physical suffering. Malaria costs Africa at least $12 billion in direct losses and much more in lost economic growth every year.

Our new home in Tanzania is no exception to the plight of malaria in Africa. It is estimated that upwards of 80,000 malaria deaths occur every year in Tanzania, with 12 million clinical malaria cases reported annually. More than 40% of all outpatient visits in Tanzania are attributed to malaria.

Each year, more than 200 million cases of malaria occur globally, though most are never tested or registered. Even worse, mosquitoes themselves are becoming more resistant to certain preventative drugs and life-saving insecticides.

Photo Credit: Roll Back Malaria

What you can do.

History shows that malaria can be eliminated. In high-income countries, aggressive prevention measures and more effective monitoring and treatment gradually eliminated the disease. This milestone was achieved in the United States in 1951.

Funding for malaria control hovers around $2 billion. However, it is estimated that an additional $5 billion in annual funding is needed to achieve universal coverage.

The two main methods of reducing malaria transmission at the community level include (1) long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets and (2) indoor spraying with residual insecticides. Getting these items to those living in malaria-prevalent regions is critically important.

How can you do that? Make a financial contribution to any of the following nonprofit organizations that works to eliminate the disease.

Click Here to Donate

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Infographic: The Global Fight Against Malaria

Photo Credit: The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

If interested, from a U.S. Aid perspective, you can read more about what the President's Malaria Initiative in Tanzania has accomplished to date and what the plan is going forward.

CDC: The Big Push to Defeat Malaria
WHO Campaigns: World Malaria Day 2014
WHO: Malaria Fact Sheet
President's Malaria Initiative: Tanzania
The Gates Foundation: Malaria Strategy
The Global Fund: Malaria
Rollback Malaria: The Global Partnership for a Malaria-Free World

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