Tuesday, April 20, 2010

World Malaria Day

25 April 2010 is World Malaria Day

A parasite poisons hundreds of millions of people. The ancient illness kills nearly a million humans each year. Yet, this infectious disease is treatable and preventable.

Fragile mosquitoes flit through the tropical breezes. Poised on delicate feet, the insect prepares to feed. With a thwack, a slap of a hand, the mosquito melts into a smear of blood. Malaria has been defeated, at least in that instant.

Transmitted by mosquitoes, the malaria parasite may be deadly to humans, but many vectors for control exist. Prevention measures like pesticide spraying, reservoir draining, and insect-repellent bed-net distribution prevent the breeding and biting of mosquitoes. Fewer mosquitoes mean fewer vehicles in which malaria may travel.

Doctors around the globe strive for a vaccine that will prevent malaria infection, but a perfected vaccine has yet to be developed. Still, medicine plays a pivotal part in preventing malaria deaths. Traditional medicines like Artemisinin, Quinine, and Chloroquine are still used to treat the disease, but drug-resistant malaria has evolved in many parts of the world. New combination therapies are implemented to fight the illness, but the situation resembles an arms race. Medics and malaria struggle to keep the upper-hand, and we see an escalation in the strength of weapons needed to fight the deadly disease.

"Malaria defeated the international community many years ago. We cannot allow this to happen again," said Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization. Many so-called developed countries have expelled malaria from their territories, yet the disease is still endemic in much of the world. Malaria is a global problem, and it affects the global community. The mosquitoes that transmit the disease do not heed political boundaries or economic status. If one country suffers from rampant malaria, then the world risks the global spread of disease.

Eradicating malaria is not a simple task, but it can be done. The parasite changes, mutates, and evolves to ensure its survival, but humans can outwit this evolution. Concentrated effort to prevent and treat malaria drastically reduces the number of ill and diminishes the number of deaths in a region. And, it isn't just trained medical professionals who can help fight malaria on a global scale. One of the biggest efforts to combat malaria comes from mosquito-net distribution.

Bed-nets prevent malaria-infested mosquitoes from biting people while they sleep. Insecticide treated nets are the most effective, but even a standard net is better than no protection. Donations to support the distribution of mosquito nets are collected on a global scale. Please visit Malaria No More or Nothing But Nets to contribute to a net-distribution program.

Other ways you can help:
* Donate
Malaria is an economic drain on the countries and communities where the disease is endemic. Donations are needed to provide medical treatment and to support preventative measures in places where malaria is most prevalent. Please only donate to reputable organizations. Infectious Bite suggests Malaria No More, the CDC Foundation, and Nothing But Nets.

* Help
Volunteer in anyway that you can. Medical personnel are always needed in endemic regions, but non-medical volunteers are also needed. Volunteers distribute mosquito nets, disrupt and destroy mosquito breeding grounds, and educate at-risk individuals about proper use of insecticides and other preventative measures.

* Start
Start an awareness project of your own. Compared to activism for many other causes, anti-malaria offensives are still developing to find novel ways to fight the disease. Media publications reveal the signs of "an evolving 'malaria activism' (akin to AIDS activism)" (Public). "Probably no other disease in human history has been associated with social and political activism to the extent that the HIV epidemic has" (AIDS Activism). "Such activism played a huge role in reducing the costs of anti-retroviral drugs in developing countries" (PLoS). Outspoken individuals are needed to raise awareness in their communities. Small actions are indispensable to the global effort of malaria awareness.

World Malaria Day "is a day for recognizing the global effort to provide effective control of malaria." Instituted by the World Health Assembly in May 2007, World Malaria Day seeks to engage everyone at moving toward the goal of eliminating the global problem of malaria (WHO).

"Approximately half of the world's population is at risk of malaria, particularly those living in lower-income countries. It infects more than 500 million people per year and kills [approximately] 1 million. The burden of malaria is heaviest in sub-Saharan Africa but the disease also afflicts Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and even parts of Europe" (WHO).

World Malaria Day is an opportunity:
*for countries in the affected regions to learn from each the experiences of others and support each global efforts;
*for new donors to join a global partnership against malaria;
*for research and academic institutions to flag their scientific advances to both experts and general public; and
*for international partners, companies and foundations to showcase their efforts and reflect on how to scale up what has worked

Join us, and join the world as we fight to bring an end to malaria illness and deaths. Together we can bite malaria back.

Links to visit:
World Malaria Day: http://www.worldmalariaday.org
Roll Back Malaria: http://www.rollbackmalaria.org/worldmalariaday/
WHO: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/events/annual/malaria/en/index.html

AIDS Activism. http://www.albany.edu/sph/AIDS/activists.html

PLoS. "Time for a Third Wave of Malaria Activism." http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000188

Public Library of Science. "It's Time for a 'Third Wave' of Malaria Activism to Tackle Drug Shortages." ScienceDaily 23 November 2009. 24 November 2009 .

Roll Back Malaria. "Key Facts, Figures, & Strategies." http://www.rollbackmalaria.org/gmap/GMAP_Advocacy-ENG-web.pdf

Yarney, G. "Roll Back Malaria." http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/findArticle.action?author=Yamey&title=Roll%20Back%20Malaria:%20A%20failing%20global%20health%20campaign.

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