Just one mosquito bite can be disastrous. And today, on World Malaria Day, we are reminded that just one day in which malaria is not a global priority would be equally disastrous.
About half the world’s population is at risk of malaria, especially those living in the poorest countries. We have made promising strides in eradicating the disease—mortality rates have fallen by 25 percent worldwide since 2000—but without sustained investment in controlling malaria, that progress could easily go in the opposite direction. Malaria is caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through mosquito bites, so actions taken against malaria must prevent transmission, detect and treat those who have been infected as early as possible, and ensure that resistance to antimalarial medicine doesn’t get out of hand. This is a long-term commitment, and one that depends on not just sustained but ever-stronger efforts.
Access to prevention measures is crucial, and can be as simple as using mosquito nets and spraying insecticides indoors for areas most at risk. It is also important to keep a close eye on the effectiveness of antimalarial medicines. Growing resistance to antimalarial drugs has recently been observed in parts of Southeast Asia, and risk of resistance will increase if we do not continue to implement sustained measures against it.
The theme for World Malaria Day 2012 is “Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria”, emphasizing the fact that eradicating malaria depends heavily on the amount of resources invested in it in the coming years. At GlobeMed, we also recognize the importance of sustained efforts by local organizations in affected communities. GlobeMed at Notre Dame has partnered with Promotion for Education and Development Association (PEDA) in Vientiane, Laos to develop educational materials that will help local peer educators teach communities about the prevention and treatment of malaria and tuberculosis. This allows community members to be better-equipped in preventing these diseases.
Many of our partner organizations are also making crucial efforts against malaria in their communities. The Rwanda Village Concept Project, which partners with GlobeMed at George Washington University, is working to reduce mortality associated with malaria for rural populations in the Huye district of southern Rwanda. Their teaching sessions educate adults and schoolchildren in basics like the life cycle of vector mosquitoes, transmission, prevention methods, treatments and the role of the community in the malaria eradication process. A mosquito net distribution program also aims to give one to each community member by this year.
Organizations like RVCP and PEDA will continue fighting malaria long after World Malaria Day has passed. It is as important as ever that even more people and organizations join in this long-term commitment– one of many crucial investments in the movement for global health equity.
Other GlobeMed partner organizations with programs focusing on malaria:
Build Your Future Today Center in Siem Reap, Cambodia (partnered with GlobeMed at the University of Virginia)
Kabwohe Clinical Research Center in the Bushenyi District of Uganda (partnered with GlobeMed at the University of Missouri-Kansas City)
Kachin Women’s Association Thailand in Chiang Mai, Thailand (partnered with GlobeMed at Dartmouth)
Uganda Development & Health Associates in Iganga, Uganda (partnered with GlobeMed at Washington University in St. Louis)