The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) supports anti-malara efforts in Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
Photo: Zaida Bastos
This year marks the fourth annual celebration of World Malaria Day (WMD)–and the winding down of the World Health Organization’s Decade to Roll Back Malaria. Along with HIV/AIDSW and tuberculosis, this mosquito-borne infection forms the Big Three, a trifecta of top killers in the developing world, especially Africa. The WHO established WMD in 2007 as an occasion for recognizing global efforts to control this disease, which in 2009 posed a threat to half the world’s population.
The WHO has set a target of zero malaria deaths by 2015. At the time of the first WMD in 2008, malaria killed an estimated one child every 30 seconds, but by the end of 2010, 11 African countries had registered a more than 50 per cent reduction in malaria cases and deaths.
According to figures for these countries cited by Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo, WHO regional director for Africa, in his Apr. 25 WMD statement, the proportion of households owning at least one insecticide-treated net was 42 per cent, and 35 per cent of children under age five years of age slept under a treated net.
The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) supports anti-malaria efforts in several countries in Africa and the Indian subcontinent. “We are involved with our CIDA partners overseas in malaria-prevention education and the distribution of treated mosquito nets,” says Zaida Bastos, CIDA program co-ordinator at the Toronto-based PWRDF. “So far, we have distributed more than 15,000 nets, especially to at-risk families who have children under age five and people who are HIV-positive.”
Although topical insect repellents are beyond the budgets of many people in the developing world, the insecticide-steeped nets offer good protection. Vulnerable residents are also educated about sanitation, particularly indoor residual spraying and stagnant water reduction to clear breeding grounds. “There is even some vegetation such as neem trees that can be planted around village compounds to discourage mosquitoes,” Bastos says. Neem trees are members of the mahogany family and have insect-repellent properties.
And according to those monitoring results on the front lines, tangible gains are being made. “When they go back to people and ask them how often they’ve had malaria in the past three months, many say they’ve been malaria-free,” says Bastos. Before the net programs, many would report having recently had the chills, fever and sweating caused by the infection of red blood cells with the protozoan Plasmodium.