On April 25th we observe World Malaria day, in hopes of highlighting the global effort to provide effective control of this terrible disease.
Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected female mosquito. Once it enters the body, the parasite multiplies in the liver, and then infects red blood cells, causing fever, severe headache and other symptoms. In some cases, the disease can progress to coma, and eventually death. Ninety percent of malaria deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 85 percent of the fatalities are children under five years old.
About half of the world's population, nearly 3.3 billion people, is at risk for malaria, primarily those living in developing countries. In 2010, 216 million people become infected with the disease, and 655 thousand of them died. And because malaria is a preventable killer, they died needlessly.
The United States has been involved in the global effort to control malaria since the 1950s. In 2005, the administration of President George W. Bush expanded the U.S. global malaria program through the President’s Malaria Initiative, with the goal of reducing malaria-related deaths by 50 percent in 15 countries in Africa.
In 2009, this Initiative became a core component of President Barack Obama’s Global Health Initiative and subsequently PMI expanded into 19 focus countries in Africa and the Greater Mekong Subregion. Working in partnership with international agencies such as the World Health Organization, with non-governmental and private organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and with local governments and organizations, the U.S. Government is working toward the goal of halving the burden of malaria in 70 percent of at-risk populations in sub-Saharan Africa.
“In the last decade we have seen a renewed commitment by the United States, international organizations, and private foundations to eliminate all malaria deaths,” said U.S. Congressman Chris Smith during a House Congressional hearing on the disease in December of last year.
“The world has the tools to prevent and treat malaria. No one in the twenty-first century should have to suffer from it, let alone die from it.”