It is now World Malaria Day 2015 and I still feel as strongly about the film and my involvement with ONE as I did that beautiful evening in April 2013.
So what is Malaria and how does a person get sick with this disease? According to the Centers for Disease Control, Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that infects mosquitoes in certain parts of the world. A human being is at risk of being infected with Malaria when they are bitten by a mosquito carrying the disease. A person who has been infected with Malaria may experience flu-like symptoms, seizures, and even mental confusion.
Where is Malaria? Malaria is a disease that generally impacts people living in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as parts of South America and Asia.
Today, the World Health Organization is honoring World Malaria Day 2015 by calling on the global health community to “close gaps in prevention and treatment to defeat Malaria.” In my opinion, this is an important time for all world citizens to learn more and contribute in any way we are able to eradicate this disease that infects about 200 million people and kills about 660,000 people annualy.
ONE does a great job of laying out the facts and figures about Malaria and one fact that stood out for me is that half of the world’s population are at risk of contracting this disease. For this reason alone the world must continue the fight to eradicate Malaria.
When I think of a global issue as huge as Malaria, I always feel a bit overwhelmed at its danger and complexity. I know there are experts in science, medicine and other disciplines that are working vigiourously to fight Malaria and other global infectious diseases. Then there is me, an average world citizen with a desire to make a difference for those that have been infected and affected by diseases like Malaria, Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and Ebola. I always wonder how I can help, even if just a little bit to make life a little better for someone else.
What can you and I do to make a difference?
Education. As globalization brings us closer together through technology, I believe that you and I can get involved by educating ourselves about this deadly disease and other infectious diseases. Great resources such as the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Doctors Without Borders are good places to start in gathering information.
Humanize it. We can reach out and learn about how this disease really impacts people. Malaria is not just an issue in the books of science and medicine. It is a real life disease that infects millions of people each year. Many of the millions infected may also face barriers that prevent them from successfully fighting Malaria. Issues such as clean water and sanitation, nutrition, funding for medicine to fight this disease and even transportation to the nearest health care facility will also determine whether a person will live or die from Malaria or any other infectious disease. One way to really learn about the human factor of Malaria is to read stories from survivors, or even talk with people in our networks who have traveled to countries to do humanitarian work. As the world changes and becomes closer, we may be surprised as to who we know may have been affected by this disease.
Be loud about it. Educate others about Malaria. Talk with family and friends and colleagues and let them know that half of our world population is at risk. Use your social media to share articles, facts and figures about Malaria for the world to see. Use your voice to advocate for the support and funding of vital global health programs such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Be brave and call, write, or visit your members of Congress and tell them how important this issue is to you.
Support. Support organizations like Nothing But Nets working to reduce the transmission of Malaria. A simple bed net can reduce a family's exposure to Malaria. Wouldn't we want that for all families in need?
Know that advocacy saves lives. Malaria deaths dropped by 47% between 2000 and 2014 and more than 4 million people were saved due to an increase in intervention. Can you see what the global community can accomplish when we really come together?
Remember and step up. We must keep in our mind and hearts that even though Malaria deaths have dropped, millions of people are still infected each year and thousands still die. We cannot stop until Malaria is ERADICATED.
One infection is too many, and one death from malaria is a human tragedy. Today, let us stand in solidarity with the 3.2 billion fellow world citizens facing malaria everyday.