Eradicate Malaria

Eradicating malaria remains a topic of discussion. Specifically, is it possible? The Houston Chronicle this morning raised the possibility as it notes the efforts of Exxon and The United Methodist Church to provide bednets to children in malarial regions of the world through Nothing But Nets. The Chronicle makes an interesting point: the region that is now Houston was once considered uninhabitable because of malaria. But the effort to rid the humid, wet region of malaria was successful and modern-day Houston exists in large part as a result.

The Center for Global Development recounts the current conversation about eradication. It’s not without controversy. The effort to eradicate in the 1930s came close but as progress was made funds were cut and abatement programs slowed. The parasite re-grouped and roared back stronger than before. We live with the result today; a drug resistant parasite that’s extraordinarily adaptable.

The British journal Lancet discusses the risks if the world isn’t successful–an even more resilient foe, wasted resources, a demoralized public health sector and, worst of all, more deaths. If the effort is successful however–and it will take years–it could result in stronger national health systems, more effective treatment of related, interconnected diseases and a reduction in sick people and fatalities. The Lancet says the challenge issued by Bill and Melinda Gates at the Malaria Forum sponsored by their foundation last month was a risky, courageous act. But, as Melinda Gates said, it is ethically unacceptable anyone should die of malaria in today’s world.

Eradication will require new partnerships of scale to cover whole nations with nets as well as to support residual spraying, better water management, vaccines and treatment. But, the potential for these partnerships to form and achieve success has never been better. And given the tragic toll of suffering and lost lives, it seems irresponsible, if not morally repugnant to do less.

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