USAID provides us a brief history – “International Womenâ€™s Day started in 1911 and celebrates the many achievements and contributions of women around the world. It also brings attention to the many issues and challenges that remain in the effort to achieve gender equity.” With malaria, not only are women disproportionately affected, but fortunately there are strong women leaders in the effort to roll back malaria.
According to Jhpiego, a leading organization in the field of women’s health, “Malaria exacts a heavy toll on the health of pregnant women and young children …
Malaria is especially dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn children. In sub-Saharan Africa, malaria infection is estimated to cause 400,000 cases of severe maternal anemia and 75,000â€“200,000 infant deaths annually. Maternal anemia contributes significantly to maternal mortality and causes an estimated 10,000 deaths per year.
Women bear a double burden when it comes to malaria since they must also provide care to their young children, who in malaria-endemic areas may suffer from the disease two or three times a year.Â In most poor communities there is no way for women to make up lost income when they miss work to care for sick children.
Prof Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership is also a former Minister of Health, medical doctor, mother of four. She has led the multi-partner RBM movement through a major upsurge in interest in and funding for malaria programming and guided development of the Global Malaria Action Plan that provides a unifying force for malaria advocacy and action. She sets an example for women on the front line who as clinicians, nurses, midwives and community volunteers not only help women cope with malaria but also prevent it.
Another important woman leader is Hilliary Clinton. During the US presidential campaign last year she “set the goal of ending malaria deaths in Africa.”Â Now as Secretary of State in the US she oversees the large US effort to control malaria and other diseases like HIV that disproportionately affect women.
We need more advocates like Coll-Seck and Clinton as key leaders in malaria control. Hopefully readers will share their own thoughts on women who have made a difference in the fight against malaria.