By Jenny Andrews, Executive Director, Malaria Partners International
Without a doubt, the most dangerous and deadly animal in the world is the mosquito. Sadly, in 2020 alone, mosquitos carrying malaria parasites sickened 241 million people and killed 627,000 people worldwide, most of them children under the age of five.
This week, we pause to recognize the discovery made by Sir Ronald Ross on August 20, 1897, that mosquitos are the source of the deadly parasites that cause malaria. This discovery revolutionized our knowledge of the disease and led to new preventive measures and treatments to combat the disease. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that, during the two years of the pandemic, many of the financial and human resources used to fight malaria were, understandably, redirected to fight COVID-19. This led to a significant increase in the number of malaria cases and deaths.
For many here in the US, malaria is a foreign concept, rarely thought of since it was eliminated in the early 1960’s. However, for our friends in Africa, Asia and Central America, malaria is a daily reality that threatens the health, well-being, and prosperity of everyone.
The malaria parasite attacks and kills red blood cells which carry oxygen to all the cells in the human body. This causes severe anemia which can quickly become deadly, especially in small children and pregnant women. In literally a matter of hours, malaria can progress to the point where treatment becomes ineffectual.
This is why Malaria Partners International (MPI) is working with malaria control agencies in endemic countries to train, equip and sustain Community Health Workers (CHWs) who work right in their own rural villages to bring testing, diagnosis and treatment of malaria close to home. No longer do mothers have to carry sick children on their backs long distances to rural health clinics. CHWs will come to them – in their own homes – to care for their sick family members.
But we don’t stop there. MPI has created affiliate organizations in Zambia, Uganda and West Africa to help build grassroots support for malaria elimination. I would like to tell you about Uganda which is currently experiencing a malaria epidemic in over 40 districts, causing the potential for untold suffering for nearly 5 million people. Our local affiliate, Malaria Partners Uganda (MPU), while continuing its focus on malaria advocacy and prevention, is leaning in to increase resources available to people who have contracted the disease.
To commemorate World Mosquito Day, MPU, in partnership with the regional blood banks and the Uganda Blood Transfusion Services, is conducting a blood donation drive to contribute to the unmet blood needs in Namutumba, a district particularly hard hit by malaria. The goal is to collect 1000 units of blood which will provide life-saving transfusions to 3000 children suffering from severe malaria.
These are just two examples of how Malaria Partners International and its partners are not only preventing, diagnosing and treating malaria close to home, but also saving the lives of people who have contracted the disease.
Every single human life has value and worth. Through your support, we are saving lives and preventing suffering and for that we thank you. If you would like to make a contribution to advance this work, please connect with our donations page using the button below.
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