Bringing Malaria Home

April 25, 2013 By Caroline Espinosa

Last fall, my children came home and told me their school was raising money to fight malaria.  Tag teaming, they breathlessly rattled off facts, asking me if I knew that a child dies from malaria every 60 seconds, and that having a mosquito net could save their lives.

There is something about having your children tell you that someone else’s child dies every minute that gets your attention.

And for the past seven months, my third grader and kindergartner have joined their classmates in raising funds through bake sales and other events, and each week have contributed their pocket money – little as it may be – to help purchase the $10 nets that are the difference between life and death for others around the world. Malaria Bake Sale

We’ve continued the conversation over the months learning about what America has done to combat one of the biggest killers around the world, claiming an estimated 660,000 lives each year, most of whom are children younger than my own.

At the forefront of the United States’ efforts is its President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI).  Launched in 2005, PMI has been enormously effective in helping protect people from the effects of malaria in Africa by expanding coverage of highly effective malaria prevention and treatment measures to the most vulnerable populations: pregnant women and children under five years of age. With the support of national and international partners, PMI has distributed more than 31 million bed nets since its inception.

In 2012, PMI’s efforts to combat malaria earned it an overwhelmingly positive review from an external reviewer, which labeled the initiative “a very successful, well-led component of the U.S. Government Global Health Initiative.”  However, the fight against malaria cannot be won alone, and the United States government relies on partnerships with other organizations, including the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, through which my children became involved in the fight against malaria.

Other efforts include Malaria No More’s  NightWatch Initiative, which reminds people to sleep under nets each night.  Using mobile technology and messages from Africa’s biggest stars, this program reaches over 20 million people.  And the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign uses $10 donations from thousands of people from all over the world to distribute nets to families as part of its quest to help meet the UN goal of ending malaria deaths by 2015.

The combined efforts by governments, NGOs, and business all around the world have led to more than a 25% drop in malaria mortality rates.  And as the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals approaches, the global community will be working together to halt the spread of malaria and reduce the death toll to zero, and my kids are now part of that global community.

So this World Malaria Day means a little bit more to my family, and I hope it will to yours, as well.  It’s not just about what others are doing to rid the world of this terrible disease, but about what we can do.  It has allowed us to do something more meaningful as a family and has helped my kids understand that saving a life is more important than any new toy money can buy.