Silent Tsunami

San Diego — The Rev. Randy Day, addressing the first meeting of the Connectional Table of The United Methodist Church, outlined the response that will be followed in the Banda Aceh region of Indonesia by the United Methodist Committee on Relief and issued a warning that malaria could be the next major “wave.”

“Keeping
survivors healthy by providing clean water, food and especially medicines, could
prevent the next wave of death,” he said.

Rev. Day had spoken of the scourge
of malaria long before the tsunami, and he favors a major effort to combat it
worldwide.

Loss of life from malaria
has been called a “silent
tsunami
” by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the UN’s Millennium
Project. As many children die of malaria in Africa in one month as died in the
Indian Ocean tsunami, according to Dr.
Sachs.

With research into new
medications and immunizations, Rev. Day believes this treatable disease might
even become preventable, and hundreds of thousands of lives can be saved.

The consequences of malaria in
malnourished children are grave. Untreated, malaria
is a debilitating disease that attacks the brain, heart and lungs through the
bloodstream. It causes lethargy, fever, hallucinations and eventually death.

In addition to treating it with
medication, a new form of mosquito netting impregnated with an easily mixed
powder that repels the insects is on the market and it is an effective, low-cost
prevention measure. Made available through widespread distribution, coupled
with training in how to mix the powder and soak mosquito nets in it, this
simple technology could save hundreds of thousands of
lives.

Treating standing water to
prevent the incubation of disease-carrying mosquitoes is another simple
intervention that helps. Treatment of standing water in Banda Aceh and other
regions affected by the tsunami is underway. UN officials fear an epidemic of
malaria could result in an additional
100,000 deaths
.

Taken
together, medications, medicated netting and elimination of breeding sources
will prevent the next wave of the silent tsunami.

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