Imagine waking up one morning to the news that 2,000 children had been killed in a series of planned bombings of schools all around the world. There would be mass panic- TV stations and newspapers would rush to cover the story, trying to figure out what was going on and why. People would be horrified and perhaps start up campaigns through nonprofits to give help to the families and everyone would do everything in their power to make sure it didn’t happen again.
Then you wake up the next morning to the same news. Another 2,000 children were killed. The same tragedy strikes again the next day- and everyday in fact. This faux news story isn’t far from reality. There is a menace killing over 2,000 children every single day. And the most horrific part of this nightmare is that the killer could be eliminated, taken down with known strategies. So why aren’t we doing anything? Why don’t people know about this ongoing tragedy?
This menace goes by the name of malaria and is one of the most deadly predators in the world. And it deserves our attention. Why? It has an incredibly huge impact, not just limited to the deaths of thousands each day, a tragedy in itself. Malaria also costs countries economically. Once workers contract malaria, they often become too weak and fatigued to be able to work and in turn can bring in no money to their family, or contribute overall to the country’s economy. Because they have no money they can often not afford malaria treatments even if they are available. In Africa alone, $12 billion is being lost due to malarial causes (endmalaria.org). Imagine how these poverty-stricken nations could start to help themselves if malaria was eliminated and they had their work force back!
Last spring, I had the great privilege of listening to Carolyne Siganda, a World Vision development worker who has been face to face with malaria’s impacts. Never before had I realized that malaria also leads to things like child trafficking and early marriage. But the truth is that some mothers have to make an impossible choice- to either keep their children at home, knowing they would most likely die from malaria, or send them to the city for work or give them up to the army. In the city, many children are easy targets for traffickers who lure them in with promises of jobs. In places like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia, malaria can also result in child soldiers. In my opinion, becoming a child soldier is one of the most monstrous outcomes- being forced to kill and maim others. No mother should have to make the choice to see her child die or go on to kill others.
Girls marry early to have as many children as possible in hopes that some will survive. They know that many with die early from malaria.
Siganda also explained how malaria can contribute to other health problems indirectly. For example, in Sudan, people often use cow dung as a natural mosquito repellant and smear it on the children’s faces. However, this can lead to infections resulting in lost eyesight and hearing. Who knew that malaria could have such a far-reaching impact?
According to the UN’s 2010 Millennium Developmental Goals (MDG) Report, half of the world’s population is at risk from malaria. And we know the solutions- Bed nets, Indoor Residual Spraying, anti-malarial drugs…these are all known and tested methods of preventing and treating malaria. And they are effective! When bed nets cover a large portion of a country’s population, malaria cases and deaths have fallen by 50% (MDF 2010 Report).
And we are making progress. Malaria deaths and cases have been greatly reduced. Since 2001, an estimated 908,000 malaria deaths have been averted through the use of treated bed nets (RBM). Malaria can be eliminated by 2015! Just five years away, we can be labeled the generation that ended malaria. In order to accomplish this goal, however, there needs to be adequate funding. Currently, the US is below its promised $5 billion over 5 years through the Global AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Bill. Malaria can be eliminated by 2015- but we need to remind our senators and representatives of their promise.
Some of you may have stopped by the Night of Nets event on malaria back in September- at the event, we had post cards to send to our senators pushing for increased malaria funding. However, it is more effective is to call your senators. Don’t worry- it’s not as intimidating as it sounds! All you do is find out who your senators and representatives are, give their office a call and tell them you want Senator so-and-so to support increased malaria and funding and to adhere to the promises made through the Millennium Developmental Goals. Remind them to follow through on our promises to end malaria by 2015 and that US funding needs to be at least $1 billion a year for this to happen.
As a constituent, your officials and their aids will listen to what you have to say, and if enough of us are willing to speak up, we can make malaria a priority. Just 10 phone calls to an elected official can flag it as a high priority matter. So give them a call today-right now, while you are thinking about it.
Another way you can push our government is send a postcard to your elected official- there is a stack of them sitting in the Budapest Café- Just go and pick one up, fill it out and then drop it in the basket. All cards will be mailed without charge to you. In fact- I have a challenge. Let’s see if McDaniel can send 100 postcards on ending malaria.
Feeling more ambitious? Save lives. It’s a surprisingly easy thing for us to do- we can all afford to give $6. Just $6 can buy a treated bed net, one of the most effective ways of preventing malaria. Maybe skip getting that latte at Starbucks and instead give the money to organizations like Nothing But Nets and World Vision who distribute bed nets and also check up on the families to make sure the nets are being used and used properly.
Now imagine you woke up to the news that South East Asia and Africa were starting to eliminate poverty in their countries, due to the fact that they now had an energetic, bustling workforce. Imagine mothers and children around the world not having to sleep in fear each night that a tiny mosquito bite would kill them. Imagine families staying whole, children having the energy to go to school and get an education.
Just 100 postcards. We can be the generation that ends malaria- so lets step up and speak out.
WHO World Malaria Report 2009
MDG Report 2010
World Vision: www.endmalaria.org
Roll Back Malaria (RBM): Malaria Day 2010 Update