Eradicating Malaria

The “E” word. Melinda Gates spoke it today at the Malaria Forum convened by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The word is eradication. It’s perhaps the most controversial issue discussed in private by researchers and practitioners in malaria and debated in public settings. But Melinda Gates was unequivocal.

“We have a historic opportunity not just to treat or manage malaria but to eradicate it. To reach a day when no mosquito on this planet carries the disease. To do less is too timid and a waste of talent,” she told the Forum.

She also reminded the group that while this discussion goes on children are dying and this is the ethical underpinning first among several reasons why malaria should be eradicated.

“Every life has worth. Little boys and girls are going to be bitten. And they’re not going to get to a doctor or clinic. They will die in the village. No child should die of malaria in today’s world,” she said.

Only a day earlier the participants discussed eradication and elimination of malaria particularly when speaking with donors and a general audience. Some said eradication or elimination are goals too high to pursue, at least, too high to stake a claim or make a promise. Others said it’s not possible to inspire the kind of support and financial contributions required without staking out high ground.

Melinda was followed by Bill Gates who presented the advances made in both treatment and research in prevention and immunization. He, too, issued the challenge to work toward eradication.

Both were visionary and inspiring. They issued a challenge to leaders in government, the civic sector, industry and non-profit organizations to press ahead with a long term commitment to eradicate malaria.

Bill Gates said, “There’s no doubt if the world dedicates the time and the money we can coordinate tools and resources to eradicate malaria. But it’s not a short term goal. It is a long term process. To go only half way would be to fall behind,” he said.

Both Bill and Melinda noted that the incidence of malaria was reduced several years ago and when cases decline the world pulled back from prevention. When this occurred the disease came roaring back and is resistant to some of the early pesticides and medications that were effective then. Bill noted this his must be instructive today. When malaria cases are reduced there should be no reduction of commitment or prevention and treatment lest the process repeat itself.

He underscored the commitment of both himself and Melinda by telling the Forum, “Our commitment won’t wane. It’s a life long commitment on our part.”

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