It is heartening to see progress in the fight against malaria. Over the past thirty years and with hundreds of millions of dollars invested thus far, the RTS,S malaria vaccine was officially rolled out yesterday in Malawi. In 2017, I wrote about the vaccine trials that began in 2009 and the announcement of the three countries that had been chosen for the vaccine rollout: Kenya, Malawi, and Ghana. In clinical trials, the vaccine was found to prevent approximately 4 in 10 malaria cases, including 3 in 10 cases of life-threatening severe malaria. Now two years later the vaccine is officially in use to curb the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of African children under the age of five. The Malaria Vaccine Implementation Program will continue through 2022.
South Africa has extremely high maternal mortality levels. This is true when compared with developed countries as well as other developing countries.
According to the World Health Organisation, for every 100,000 live births in the country in 2015, 138 women died due to pregnancy and childbirth complications. In Sweden, fewer than five women die for every 100,000 live births. In Brazil, the estimate is 44 women for every 100,000 live births.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) continues to take a tremendous toll on human health, with 37 million people infected and 1.2 million deaths worldwide in 2014. In sub-Saharan Africa, where the HIV epidemic has been most devastating, more than 25 million people are HIV-infected, about 70 percent of the global total.
But as of 2014, only about 11 million people infected with the virus in Africa were receiving treatment with antiretroviral therapy (ART) medications, which can stop the progression of disease and reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
That leaves 14 million people with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa untreated. This is partly because, until recently, most countries have provided ART only for patients who reached a specific threshold in HIV disease progression. And starting ART can be a lengthy and complicated process, leading many patients to drop out of care before they even begin treatment.
As you might know last Friday marked World Malaria Day, a day to encourage the global health community, the private sector, governments, NGOs, and everyday, ordinary people to keep up the fight to help defeat malaria.
Every minute a child dies of malaria somewhere in the world, most of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, 90% of children who die from malaria live in Africa and 40% of those live in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to WorldMalariaDay.org. There is encouraging news, however. From 2000 – 2012 3.3 million lives were saved due to scaled up malaria control interventions. What many might not understand is that malaria is completely preventable and treatable, a fact that is repeatedly reiterated by the World Health Organization and others. Interventions such a insecticide-treated bed nets, residual indoor spraying, and draining of stagnant water helps to control malaria. One of the reasons many children, especially those under the age of five, die from malaria is because they are not treated in time or remote areas do not have access to rapid diagnostic tests and treatments.
Malaria No More, an international NGO that is determined to end malaria, launched its Malaria Sucks campaign on World Malaria Day that encourages donations, as low as $1, to help save more children from dying from malaria. Malaria Sucks’ icon is an orange lollipop that signifies what children in malaria prone areas miss out on – their childhoods. One donated dollar goes to rapid diagnostic testing and full treatment for one child, so a dollar indeed makes a difference.
Celebrities have taken on the issue like Anthony Bourdain and James Ven Der Beek who tweeted their support of the Malaria Sucks campaign.
— Anthony Bourdain (@Bourdain) April 25, 2014
— James Van Der Beek (@vanderjames) April 23, 2014
“MalariaSUCKS is a fun, tangible way for supporters to connect to an issue that may seem distant from their everyday lives,” said Malaria No More CEO Martin Edlund in a statement. “We’re putting our supporters in the spotlight – asking them to help us create real change through an everyday activity like posting a selfie and spreading a powerful humanitarian message through their social networks. It’s our pink ribbon, only sweeter.”
Global social engagement is key to the success of the campaign and Malaria No More is making it fun. Anyone can join the conversation by donating money to www.MalariaNoMore.org/MalariaSUCKS and by posting to #MalariaSucks.
You can also generate a lollipop selfie and share with your friends. Here’s mine.
Visit www.MalariaNoMore.org/MalariaSUCKS to save a life.
Full disclosure: I traveled to Zambia with Malaria No More in October 2013 to cover the global launch of its Power of One campaign.
There is a long tradition of newborn and child healthcare in the United States and around the world for that matter. See photos below. From 1900 – 1997 the child mortality rate decreased more than 90% in the United States – a laudable national health achievement. Now there is an accelerated global move to save more newborn lives around the world given the knowledge and interventions that can keep more newborns alive in countries where the newborn mortality rate is absurdly high.
UNICEF and the World Health Organization has led a new movement to draft the Every Newborn Action Plan that will create a roadmap to lower the newborn mortality rate across the board to effectively reduce the overall child mortality rate. Through February 28 you can add your thoughts and ideas about the plan on the World Health Organization web site.
Without a national plan, strength of will, resources, and national participation the child mortality rate in the United States might not have improved as rapidly as it did. This shows that indeed improvements can be made in child and newborn survival rates when everyone is on the same page. Changes will not happen overnight, to be sure, but they will happen when steps are made in the right direction.
Read and comment on the Every Newborn Action Plan.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-A35-5-M-4
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USF34- 071888-D
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USF34- 071908-D
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USW3- 000544-D
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ggbain-09828
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USF34-038660-D
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USF34-071858-D
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-72011