Swine flu may have monopolized recent headlines, but another public health threat shared the stage yesterday: malaria, the leading killer of African children.
Yesterday was the second annual World Malaria Day, and President Obama issued a statement saying, “The United States stands with our global partners and people around the world to reaffirm our commitment to make the U.S. a leader in ending deaths from malaria by 2015. This begins with ending malaria as a major public health threat in Africa, where it kills nearly one million people each year, and overwhelms public health systems. It is time to redouble our efforts to rid the world of a disease that does not have to take lives.”
The Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, Africa (pictured in our blog header) is a leader in anti-malaria efforts — in fact, the Hospital has the lowest rigorously-documented mortality rate for a child hospitalized with severe malaria in all of Africa. As the Toronto Star reported yesterday, the Hospital is also playing a key role in the trial of RTS-S, the first malaria vaccine — and if the vaccination is successful in the remaining human trials, children in Africa could be receiving it by 2013.
Read the Toronto Star’s article here: http://www.thestar.com/article/624288
But preventing rather than treating is the point of the Hospital’s efforts. In the process of our research activities (which include giving out lots of bed nets to participants), the latest data we’ve gathered suggests that we may have already reduced the incidence of malaria at the Hospital from ~1.2 cases per child per year to ~0.2/year (i.e. one case per child every five years).
There’s still more to do when it comes to malaria (including extending our efforts to reach lots of kids in more distant villages), and we’re only just starting to take on HIV, TB, and overall maternal/child health with the same rigor. Deadline for equal success in those is set at April 16, 2013, the exact 100th anniversary of Dr. Schweitzer’s arrival in Lambaréné.