By Andrew Bonifiglia
June 13, 2010 – Johannesburg, South Africa
Kicking Malaria Out of Africa
There are plenty of good causes that will benefit from the hype, sponsorship, and promotion that the World Cup brings to South Africa. One in particular caught my interest; United Against Malaria (http://unitedagainstmalaria.org/).
With a mission to “Kick Malaria Out of Africa” the organization is using the World Cup as a platform to promote malaria prevention and treatment. Like HIV/AIDS, malaria is not only a social and health issue, but an economic one. Employee sick days, lost productivity from those infected with the disease, and employee vacation or unpaid leave due to family members having the illness all impact a company’s bottom line. 850,000 people die from malaria each year[i]. When you take into consideration the points I just made, that can add up to millions upon millions of Rands. And please don’t think I’m cold hearted. The reason the economics are so important is because organizations like United Against Malaria, coupled with the reach and financial resources of governments and large corporations operating in Africa, can win the fight against malaria. Behavioral change is the ultimate goal. The population at-large needs to understand the risks associated with malaria, how it can be prevented, and most importantly, MODIFY behavior to mitigate the chance of becoming part of the statistics. Hopefully, the amount of coverage the World Cup draws to UAM and malaria in general will be the impetus to an Africa where malaria has been “kicked out.”
And just a final comment; the push to reduce the number of malaria cases in Africa is not a new thing. However, the paradox is that it is a completely preventable disease and one that can be treated (much easier than HIV/AIDS). With that in mind, I think it is a cause worth fighting for and one where the goal can be realized if all of the stakeholders come together.
[And a quick thank you to Celia Deitz who is working for United Against Malaria and was kind enough to give me a few minutes of her time to learn about the great work she and the organization are doing] [i]