Strike a blow against malaria, for World Malaria Day, April 25, 2010

April 25, 2010

Today is World Malaria Day.

Not a day to celebrate malaria, but to encourage the fight against it.

What can you do?  One good thing would be to give $10 to Nothing But Nets, the campaign to get bednets for every kid in an African area affected by malaria.

Bednets save lives of kids like this 4-year old - Photo by Paul Bettings/World Vision

Bednets save lives of kids like this 4-year old - Photo by Paul Bettings/World Vision

Another thing to do would be to remember that fighting malaria does not require DDT, and in fact fighting malaria might be hampered by DDT.

Go donate.  We’ll worry about the charlatans later.

World Malaria Day, 2010 – April 25

April 18, 2010

April 25, 2010, is World Malaria Day.

Malaria plagues too many nations, still.  Between 400 million and 500 million people in the world get infected with one form of the malaria parasites every year.  About a million die, most of those children.  Death disproportionately strikes pregnant women, too.

Life cycle of malaria, from the World Health Organization (WHO)

World Health Organization (WHO) chart on the life cycle of malaria

Advances in medicines and advances in controls of the insects that help transmit the disease led to several campaigns to eradicate the disease over the past 60 years.  Malaria no longer torments most of Europe and most of North America, but it remains a serious, economy-crippling disease across Africa and Asia.

Malaria also poses as a political football.  Over the next couple of weeks you can find dozens of articles on valiant efforts to fight malaria, including the RollBack Malaria Campaign, and efforts by the Gates Foundation and histories of the work of the Rockefeller Foundation.  But you can also find a pernicious political campaign against malaria fighters and “environmentalists,” claiming that DDT is a magic potion that could have ridded the world of malaria by killing off all the mosquitoes, if only that great mass murderer, Rachel Carson, had not imposed her will on the unstable dictators of African nations who did all they could to prove to Ms. Carson that they were environmentally friendly by banning DDT.

All of that is a crock.  But we see it every year.

It’s already shown up in the formerly-known-as-accurate Wall Street Journal, European edition.  (Please watch — I may have more to say on that piece, later.)

Over the next two weeks I will ask myself a hundred times, why do these people fiddle with trying to impugn scientists, physicians and environmentalists, while fevers burn in the brains of children across Africa and Asia?

With action, hope is that we can save the million lives lost annually by stopping malaria, by 2015.  Please consider joining the effort.

You should wonder about that, too.  If you find a good answer, please let me know.

Roll Back Malaria World Malaria Day 2009

World malaria politics, every day

April 26, 2008

World Malaria Day passed yesterday (see immediately previous post).  News articles and blog articles educating people about malaria and how to fight it increased modestly.

Now it’s back to the grind.  Malaria is killing hundreds of thousands.  Some people are interested in using those deaths for political gain, to get economic gain, at the expense of the dead and others whose deaths could be prevented.

In order to fight malaria, the world has come around to the tactics of fighting the mosquitoes that transmit it from human to human that were advocated by naturalist and author Rachel Carson, in her book on pesticides and other hydrocarbon chemicals, Silent Spring.

Carson realized that poisoning the air, water and soil could not work to stop disease, ultimately.  She sounded the alarm with her book in 1962.   In the 1950s DDT became ineffective against bedbugs.  By the middle 1960s, resistance and immunity to DDT by malaria-carrying mosquitoes was almost world wide.  The attempt to “eradicate malaria” collapsed when mosquitoes became resistant, coupled with the failure of too many nations to get an anti-malaria program up and running — and the disease came roaring back when the malaria parasites themselves became resistant to the pharmaceuticals used to treat the disease in humans.

New strides against malaria have been made with the creation of new pharmaceutical regimens to kill the parasites in humans, and the adoption of the rigorous, Rachel Carson-advocated programs of integrated pest management to control insects that are a necessary part of the malaria parasites’ life cycle.

Unfortunately, about 6 out of every ten stories done on mosquitoes and malaria in the past year have scoriated Carson as wrong on the science (she was not), and as a “killer of children” despite the millions her work is saving.  There is a big business in spreading false tales about DDT, about malaria, and about Rachel Carson.

Who would do such a thing?  I call your attention to Uganda, where modest use of DDT in Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) was started earlier this month despite lots of loud protests — from businesses.  Tobacco and other big business agriculture interests opposed spraying DDT in homes.  Why?

It’s silly.  But tobacco interests are mad at the World Health Organization for campaigning against cigarette smoking.  To frustrate WHO’s pro-health, anti-tobacco campaign, tobacco companies started attacking WHO for being “soft on malaria” about a decade ago.  The idea was that, if the case could be made that WHO was lacking in credibility, no one would listen to WHO about tobacco.

Tim Lambert and Deltoid have the story summarized, “Taking Aim at Rachel Carson.” Go read it.

In the fight against malaria, the bad guy, the villain, is malaria; malaria’s unwitting henchmen are mosquitoes.  Good science and good information, coupled with consistent governmental action to improve health care, are the good guys.  Rachel Carson is one of the good guys.

When you see a piece that says Rachel Carson is part of the problem, you’ve found a piece written by a tempter, or a dupe, or maybe just someone who isn’t thinking about the issues.  Don’t give money to that person’s organization to promote junk science and political calumny.  Don’t waiver in your resolve against malaria — find another, good charity, to give your money, time and effort to.  The Global Fund is a good group for contributing.  Africa Fighting Malaria spends a lot of time asking bloggers and reporters to write dubious stories against Rachel Carson and environmentalists, and not enough time or effort against malaria.  I do not recommend Africa Fighting Malaria as a recipient of your money.

Information, science, action:  Fighting malaria requires we keep our wits and reason about us, and act.

A Few Resources:

World Malaria Day 2008

April 25, 2008

April 25, 2008, is World Malaria Day. I’ve purchased some bednets thorugh Nothing But Nets to help fight malaria. Educating others about the disease is one of the chief goals, too.

Will you help, please?

See the statement from the World Malaria Day community below; pass it along to someone else.

A Malaria Community Statement –

April 25th is World Malaria Day and also Malaria Awareness Day in the United States. In observance of this day and in recognition of the tremendous opportunities to reduce the burden that malaria imposes on the health of people worldwide, we, the Malaria Community, stand in support of the following statement.

We Have Made Progress

Dynamic new public and private partnerships and renewed commitments to strengthen
longstanding efforts to combat malaria are showing positive results. Global partners include
bilateral, multilateral and U.N. programs, faith-based groups, business coalitions and private
foundations. The single largest U.S.-funded malaria program, the President’s Malaria Initiative
(PMI), has accomplished the following:

  • Indoor residual spraying benefiting more than 17 million people;
  • Procurement and distribution of 5 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets;
  • Procurement of 12.6 million artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) treatments and training of more than 28,000 health workers in use of ACTs; and
  • Procurement of malaria treatment for more than 4 million pregnant women.

Expanding Access to Current Interventions

It is imperative that stakeholders in the fight against malaria maximize global access to existing proven interventions including insecticide-treated nets, indoor residual spraying with insecticides, and effective medications. Through generous donor contributions, access to essential interventions is improving—yielding dramatic successes in places like Ethiopia and Rwanda where malaria infections and deaths have decreased by more than 50 percent. But the availability of interventions is only half the battle. We must find means to expand delivery of proven interventions, strengthen the capacity of partner countries to administer basic interventions at the community level, share best practices across countries, and motivate individuals to protect themselves and their families.

Investing in New Tools

Simultaneously, we must increase investment in developing new, improved technologies for controlling malaria, including effective drugs, insecticides, and vaccines. Resistance to the most commonly prescribed drugs in most countries has been rapidly increasing. Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) must be readily available and affordable, and new therapies must be developed to prevent resistance to ACTs and eventually replace them. The U.S. government’s commitment to expedite the development of highly effective malaria vaccines is needed now, understanding that the process will take significant time and investment. The potential of developing a vaccine of even limited efficacy could have a significant impact on deaths and illness, especially among infants and young children.

Global Problem, Local Solutions

Achieving results will also depend on the effective engagement of national, regional and local governments in the effective deployment of malaria control tools. To guarantee the best use of resources, steps must be taken to ensure that anti-malaria tools, research and investment reach the communities that need them the most, while ensuring that no community is left unsupported. Community-based efforts to deliver malaria prevention and treatment programs must inform the development of the comprehensive global strategy needed so that efforts can be sustained over time. All stakeholders need to be engaged in thoughtful, coordinated planning that brings to bear the best evidence from all levels of efforts to control or eliminate malaria while addressing changes in the epidemiology of the disease.

Note carefully and well that the major organizations fighting malaria neither slam Rachel Carson, whose methods they use to fight malaria today, nor call for a return to wholesale poisoning of Africa and Asia with DDT, but instead urge wise use of resources including an expansion of health care to aid the human victims of malaria.  Malaria is the problem, not science.

World Malaria Day is a logical extension of Earth Day; the two are not in opposition.

More Resources:

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