Today is World Malaria Day, and as we love a good Day here at Seed Change, we decided to tap out a quick good blog; particularly considering malaria is always topical in here tropical Africa. Causing an estimated 450,000 deaths per year malaria is, and long has been, a huge worldwide health issue for about as long as people have roamed the earth. But we all know that, so what can we possibly write about that would make you continue reading?
Of the 100,000,000,000 (100 billion) or so people that have ever lived in human history (approx. 7 billion are alive at the moment) it is estimated that half of these were killed by malaria. The biggest global killer is now heart disease which is often brought on by too many large quantities of ice-cream and burgers as opposed to malaria which is associated with sweaty field work and annoying mosquitos buzzing in your ear at night time. So a win for us I guess.
It was only at the end of the 19th century that Sir Ronald Ross discovered the link between the malarial parasite and mosquitos. This allowed humans to start combating the disease from the carrier allowing us to do a bit more than just enjoying a delightful Gin and Tonic and otherwise hoping for the best.
Malaria used to be almost everywhere there were humans; now in the developed world it is all but wiped out. Continued perseverance with preventative measures since Sir Ross’s discovery have people hoping that within a generation the disease will be wiped out for good. The Economist has a great map showing the reduced (and reducing) transmission area of malaria.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria is most prevalent, it is estimated that malaria directly reduces GDP by a 3% per year. Every year. That’s US $12,000,000,000 every year lost to an already poor continent. Eliminating malaria will go a long way to reducing poverty in some of the hardest hit countries – including Tanzania. Of course it’s a little bit circular – do you get rich first and then have the resources to eliminate diseases or do you eliminate diseases first which allows you to then get rich? Regardless of whichever way you slice that particular development quandary, Kigoma – Seed Change’s home – is one of Tanzania’s poorest regions and sadly also one of the top 3 malaria regions. Something to reflect on, perhaps with a quinine laced G‘n’T, on World Malaria Day.