Malaria on Earth Day

world_malaria_day_en.gifWorld Malaria Day comes close on the heels of Earth Day (today), though the latter has been celebrated for about 30 years longer.  Malaria Day, April 25th, is near the beginning of the rainy and malaria season in the northern hemisphere, and rains – not enough or too much – are a major environmental concern on Earth Day. In short malaria is vitally linked with the environment. Here is a sampling of how various web sites see the connection.

A striking poster entitled “Stop Global Warming” by Professor Yoon of Seoul, Korea teaches environmental art. The global warming poster is by one of his students depicts a child at risk of malaria composed of many tiny mosquitoes.

Paul Chesser reviews the interrelated issues of malaria control and environmental effects of pesticides, particularly DDT. The benefits accrued through focused use of the chemical in industrialized countries with strong health systems. Aside from environmental concerns, spraying as a control tool did not succeed in poor countries where health systems could not sustain the effort on a broad basis.

dscn8047-sm.JPGWe wonder whether 50 years later health systems in endemic countries are stronger, not only to ensure adequate spray coverage in appropriate locations, but also prevent ‘leakage’ into other sectors and misuse.

Cheryl Saban is an optimist. she suggests donating to malaria control efforts is the perfect Earth Day gift. “Malaria is an illness that can easily be eradicated — we have the knowledge of what to do – education, mosquito nets and medication, and the network of distribution is being worked out too.” We definitely need donations, though eradication may not be just around the corner.

The Earth Day web page reports on the Democratic Republic of Congo‘s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. This includes – “project for the restoration and rehabilitation of the national parks, plans for the protection and rehabilitation of endangered species and ecosystems, development of the Zoological and Botanical Institute of Congo, program to fight the vectors of malaria, National Program for sustainable agriculture and the National Strategy on Biosafety.”

The New York Times has observed that at 40 year old, Earth Day has become ‘big big business. “While the momentum for the first Earth Day came from the grass roots, many corporations say that it is often the business community that now leads the way in environmental innovation — and they want to get their customers interested.”

The malaria control/elimination effort has certainly attracted major supporters from the corporate world and entertainment industry. It has also benefited from the Product Red efforts to turn commercial instincts toward funds for HIV, TB and malaria control, but Malaria Day has yet to become so commercialized.

Hopefully Malaria Day will maintain its focus on practical ways to help solve a problem by all partners – corporate, NGO, government and average world citizens, but at the same time attract enough attention to fill the large funding gap that remains.

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