An ancient global killer

Plasmodium Falciparum (c)WHOPlasmodium Falciparum is an ancient, accomplished killer on a global scale. It is one of the parasites that cause malaria, the disease that brought the Roman Empire to its knees, killed peasants and popes, and continues to ravage the population of many tropical regions of the world. Only massive use of DDT in the 1950s eradicated malaria from most of Europe and North America. Yet the disease still claims one million lives every year:

There are at least 300 million acute cases of malaria each year globally, resulting in more than a million deaths. Around 90% of these deaths occur in Africa, mostly in young children. Malaria is Africa’s leading cause of under-five mortality (20%) and constitutes 10% of the continent’s overall disease burden. It accounts for 40% of public health expenditure, 30-50% of inpatient admissions, and up to 50% of outpatient visits in areas with high malaria transmission.
WHO/RBM Infosheet

United Nations Decade to Roll Back Malaria initiative has declared April 25 Africa Malaria Day to raise awareness of this global killer.

One problem with malaria is its high correlation with poverty. It mostly impacts poor, and often unstable countries, and within those countries, mostly the poorer populations. So there is not much money to be made developing new, fancy drugs.

But drugs alone won’t do, anyway. In order to get a region malaria-free, the breeding opportunities for the anopheles mosquito have to be dramatically reduced, which is not an easy task in a tropical environment. And everyone has to use mosquito nets. This requires resources, education and a level of organization that is often lacking in the countries most impacted by this disease.

It is great to raise awareness about this killer, but in some of the places most ravaged by Malaria, like the exhausted, war-torn, raped and pillaged “Heart of Africa,” only peace and healing will allow the needed changes to take place that will allow them to wipe out Malaria.

Considering the world-wide correlation between disease and poverty, and the threat of a global pandemic from diseases like the bird flu, the fight against poverty and disease is in the best personal interest of everyone, no matter where you live and no matter how safe you feel.

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