NetsforLife community workers provide nets and malaria education for a community in Angola.

NetsforLife community workers provide nets and malaria education for a community in Angola. Photo: NetsforLife | Harvey Wang | Episcopal Relief and Development.

The U.S. government and E.U. countries spend a relatively large amount of money on malaria research. Although malaria used to be much more widespread than it is now, understanding and controlling malaria is very important. Despite considerable efforts, malaria is still one of the most devastating contagious diseases in the tropics.

Governments, in partnership with local communities and non-governmental and community-based organizations, can work towards achieving global eradication and saving millions of lives from malaria. Because of programs like the J.C. Flowers & Co.’s. NetsforLife initiative—and other malaria prevention programs like the Isdell: Flowers Cross Border Malaria Initiative—many areas in Africa are supported in their prevention efforts.

Malaria is a life-threatening disease that exists in many regions of the world. It’s caused by parasites (Plasmodium) that are transmitted exclusively to people through the bites of infected mosquitos (Anopheles). In sub-Saharan Africa, it is a leading cause of death, illness, and poor growth and development among mostly young children. Studies claim that a child dies every minute from malaria; however, mortality rates have been reduced more than 50% since 2000.

So why is this issue important to those of us who live in countries where malaria has been eliminated? Simply put, the answer is humanitarian. It’s difficult to support economies and communities in developing parts of the world with millions of people at risk for such a deadly disease.

Last week, Tom Burkot of the Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine was welcomed at James Cook University for the George B. Craig Memorial Lecture series to speak about malaria and malaria prevention. The lecture series, established by George B. Craig, is a research program in mosquito biology and genetics at Notre Dame. After Craig passed away in 1995, the lecture series has been dedicated to him. It hosts annual speakers to discuss relevant research studies.

Back in 1955, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution that led the World Health Organization (WHO) to launch a program to help eliminate malaria worldwide. Burkot stated that the method for eradication was spraying DDT on the inside walls of homes. The program didn’t completely eradicate malaria worldwide, but it did achieve elimination in 11 out of 52 countries. The WHO has set out to reduce all malaria cases and deaths by 90% by 2030.

Burkot is an optimist: “I think that malaria eradication is achievable,” he said. “I think there are significant challenges to be faced in the coming years, but I think they are not insurmountable, and with the resources we have available, I think we can eliminate malaria.”