Today is World Malaria Day 2013, and evidence suggests that we are on our way to winning the fight against this entirely preventable and treatable, yet often deadly disease. Since the Millennium Development Goals were set in 2000, global malaria mortality rates have fallen by 26 per cent, while in Africa they have plummeted by a third. Notwithstanding this extraordinary success, the fact that almost half of the world’s population remains at risk of the disease suggests that there is still a long way to go towards the eradication of malaria.
Malaria is inextricably linked to poverty. The highest mortality rates are seen, without exception, in countries with high rates of extreme poverty, where effective prevention, diagnosis and treatment are either unavailable, inaccessible, or simply too expensive. Those particularly at risk are adolescent girls, who are likely to be anaemic, pregnant women, whose immune systems are actively repressed, and infants, as well as people living with HIV/AIDS.
Not only does malaria disproportionately affect poor countries, it also actively perpetuates poverty by serving as a barrier to educational and employment opportunities. Poor, malaria-affected families can rapidly become desperate and compelled to spend more of their precious income on malarial treatment instead of on basic living necessities and schooling. In many cases, parents may be forced to stop working and/or children to miss school, either owing to illness or to their obligation to care for sick family members. Owing to these wider impacts, the WHO estimates that malaria alone is responsible for decreasing the GDP of high-burden countries by over one per cent.
Over the past decade, a hugely successful collaboration between governments, philanthropic foundations and thousands of NGOs worldwide working towards the eradication of malaria has prevented the deaths of more than 1.1 million people.
A great many of these owe their lives to one basic, low-tech and inexpensive item – the mosquito net.
Photo by UNHCR/S. Hoibak
W4’s field partner in Ghana, The Village Net, is using this crucial tool to tremendous effect. In Ghana, malaria still accounts for over a quarter of all deaths of young children, and mosquito nets are still too costly for many of the country’s poorest families. By providing those who are most susceptible to the disease – impoverished adolescent girls, infants and pregnant women – with nets, The Village Net is protecting their right to live in good health and to pursue life-transforming education and livelihood opportunities, all the while working to free the world of the scourge of malaria.
On World Malaria Day, save lives by purchasing mosquito nets – one net costs just $5/€5 – for girls and women in Ghana and contribute to the global movement toward the eradication of malaria!