This post is republished with permission from the Robert Winter Institute, a blog dedicated to “theological reflections on disease and evil.”
My dad has always been especially bothered by mosquitoes. It’s the multitude of mosquito bites that bothers him, and the itchiness. He’s maniacal about keeping the doors closed on warm summer nights. Mosquitoes also have a particular attraction to my wife. In this way, mosquitoes and I are the same. Mosquitoes have never really bothered me, however. Maybe my blood doesn’t taste good to them. My brother once told me that if a mosquito landed on, say your bicep, and you clench your bicep, when the mosquito starts to suck your blood, it will explode. I must have tried this a hundred times. Never got to see one explode.
Mosquitoes undoubtedly annoy everyone. But what if one mosquito bite led to the end of your life?
Today is World Malaria Day. If you do a little nosing around, you’ll find tons of information about the day and its purpose.
Malaria at a glance
According to International Medical Corps, thirty-five countries (30 in sub-Saharan Africa and 5 in Asia) account for 98% of global malaria deaths.
86% of malaria deaths belong to children under 5 years-old.
Malaria is 100% preventable and curable
The main way to prevent malaria is through distributing insecticide-treated mosquito nets and spraying indoor areas with insecticides.
The best available treatment to date is artemisinin-based combination therapy. However, the infection has demonstrated increasing resistance to this drug. Access to the drug, made from the wormwood plant, is in woefully short supply. Getting the treatment into the hands of the sickest children around the world is the real challenge.
According to a recent report by the Roll Back Malaria group, more than a million African children have been saved from the disease since 2000 and annual funding to fight malaria rose from $100 million in 2003 to $1.5 billion in 2010.
But, as Dr. Winter often pointed out, if an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, a tenth of an ounce of eradication is even more crucial. All of the above information relates to treating or preventing malaria. What is the status of malaria eradication?
Among malaria experts the word eradication is somewhat taboo. The reason is, the World Health Organization already tried to eradicate malaria, and while it was eliminated in many wealthy countries, the goal was not achieved and the plan was abandoned. When Bill and Melinda Gates started talking eradication again in 2007, the response in public health circles was skeptical. However, late last year GlaxoSmithKline announced a promising new experimental malaria vaccine. Suddenly, a new sense of optimism is emerging. Gates has said, “I’d be disappointed if within 20 years we’re not very close to eradicating this globally.”
Two questions that I’d like to explore in my next post are, what does God want believers to do about malaria? And, what does the presence of malaria say about God?