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Anti-Malaria pledges come fast on “Idol” fundraiser

April 9, 2008

r.jpg       He hardly fits the bill as an American Idol, but British Prime Minister Gordon Brown won fans for an extraordinary pledge to buy 20 million anti-malarial nets for use in Africa and other parts of the developing world.

Brown made the commitment in a video-taped appearance on Wednesday’s “American Idol” charity TV special “Idol Gives Back” which brings celebrities, charities and viewers together in a bid to raise tens of millions of dollars for children’s charities in Africa and the United States.

Oil company Exxon Mobil, one of the “Idol” corporate sponsors, separately announced a $10 million donation to the fund raiser to be spent on anti-malarial efforts in Africa.

Brown’s pledge on behalf of the British government represents about one-sixth of the 120 million life-saving mosquito nets that experts says are needed to protect every child and family around the world from contracting the disease.

Malaria No More, one of six charities that will benefit from “Idol Gives Back” fundraiser, said it hoped Brown’s announcement would spur other world leaders to take similar action.

 ”This generous pledge will ensure that millions of African parents can protect their children from the deadly disease,” said Peter Chernin, chairman of Malaria No More.

 Organizers hope Wednesday’s fundraiser will bring $100 million this year in donations from viewers of the U.S. singing talent show.  Last year’s inaugural event raise $76 million.

“American Idol” is  the most watched TV show in the United States with about 27 million viewers a week and is also broadcast in a taped version in about 100 countries overseas.


I think raising so much money to iradicate Malaria is very important and wonderful. There are a few things to point out as someone who lived in Nigeria for many years and had Malaria twice, however:

1. Nets are very helpful, but do not solve the problem. Mosquitos do not come out between Midnight and 6am for the convenience of all and there is always that recalcitrant mosquito which found his way into the net and which you are trying to find all night long.
2. The Malaria vaccine is very important because it is a long-lasting injection. Most people affected by the Anepholes mosquito cannot afford Malaria meds; if they can, they will go to the chemist only to find often expired meds, and even if they buy them and they are not expired, they are not used to, as Westerners are,taking them on a daily or weekly basis. That is why a long-lasting anti-Malarial injection is best;
3. It is more important probably than any of the above that those wet and swampy areas where the mosquitoes breed be vigilantly treated so that eventually, Malaria can be iradicated from Africa as it has been in Italy and other countries.

By all means, nets are wonderful, but nothing done in isolation, while helpful, will solve the problem.

The anti-spam word is Stay


The Idol fund-raiser was wonderful. Liket World Malaria Day, it drew attention to the many successful ways the war against malaria is being waged, mainly through the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets and other relatively low-tech preventive measures. Unfortunately, children in the Democratic Republic of Congo remain highly vulnerable.

According to the World Health Organization, less than 1% of DRC children under five years of age sleep under protective nets. This results in most of them suffering six to ten malaria-related fever incidents per year. The disease also accounts for 45% of childhood mortality, which overall runs to 20%. In short, malaria kills nearly one in ten children in the Congo every year.

As Valerie Grey learns in my novel, Heart of Diamonds, continuous armed conflict in the country is responsible for many of these deaths. Medical supplies can’t be distributed when roads, railroads, and airstrips have been destroyed. Treatment can’t be delivered by medical personnel who have been chased from their clinics and hospitals. People driven from their homes, plagued by malnutrition, inadequate shelter, and lack of sanitary facilities are weak and less capable of warding off disease. War creates a breeding ground for death by malaria just as surely as swamps full of stagnant water breed anopheles mosquitoes.

Although the intensity of conflict has decreased since the truce of 2003 and democratic elections of 2006, millions of displaced persons still struggle to survive and hot spots remain in the eastern and western provinces. Collapsed infrastructure has severely weakened the health system in the DRC, and the strengthening process is a slow one.

The DRC, unfortunately, has little to celebrate this World Malaria Day.


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