Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services, said World Malaria Day April 25 is a time to”redouble our commitment to eradicate this pernicious disease.”
World Malaria Day was established five years ago by the World Health Organization as a means to provide education and understanding of the disease and spread information about ways to prevent and treat it.
Woo, writing in a blog for the Huffington Post, points out that the disease — which is spread by mosquitoes — killed at least 650,000 people worldwide in 2010 and some say the figure may even be twice that. Ninety-two percent of these deaths were in Africa and nearly two-thirds were of children under the age of 5.
Despite such grim statistics, Woo said deaths linked to malaria have declined since 2004.
She said the key to completely eradicating this disease is not only through scientists working to create a vaccine but also in the simple steps of using insecticide-treated bed nets and anti-malaria medicines.
According to the United Nations’ program Nothing But Nets, bed nets are so effective because they protect people from malaria-carrying mosquitoes that bite at night. A family of four can sleep under an insecticide-treated bed net, safe from malaria, for three years. The insecticide woven into each net also makes entire communities safer because it kills and repels mosquitoes. Bed nets are said to be able reduce malaria transmissions by 90 percent in areas with high coverage rates.
The CRS website recounts how three years ago it helped deliver about 3 million insecticide-treated bed nets across Niger. Outreach workers who distributed these nets in local villages also worked to convince locals to use them.
But people do not have to be handing out nets and encouraging people to use them to make a difference, the CRS site points out. It urges people to promote awareness about malaria, contribute or raise money to fight it and advocate Congress to work to eradicate the disease.