Malaria: blood, sweat, and tears

A photographic exhibition by Adam Nadel

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Malaria will kill at least 630,000 children this year.

In 2011, a minimum of 219,000,000 people contracted the disease, and almost half of the world’s population was at risk. Malaria does more than impact health; its devastating economic toll has destroyed untold dreams of a better life.

Mosquitoes transmit malaria. The only way to avoid getting malaria is to avoid getting bitten, though this is easier said than done. While the illness is easy to diagnose and cure, the majority of people most at risk of contracting malaria have very limited resources. Many are unable to properly feed their families, much less pay for a doctor or medication. While the cost of a coffee in most major cities in the West would buy one, possibly two, courses of anti-malarial medication, the reality is that this is more than hundreds of millions of people across the globe will earn this week.

Historically, most countries around the world were malaria zones. In 1860, more than half of the United States was endemic. Wealthier countries eradicated malaria decades ago, as it is an easily preventable and curable disease when the right resources are allocated towards combatting it.

Today, malaria is a disease of the poor. As it no longer affects wealthier nations, it is often not seen as a great global priority compared to diseases or outbreaks that affect “first-world” citizens in their own countries. In comparison, the reported mortality rate of H1N1 was at least 98% less than malaria in 2009, yet H1N1 prevention has received billions more in funding and significantly more media attention. Ultimately, it is a question of priorities; more money has been spent globally on preventing baldness than has been dedicated to finding a malaria vaccine.

Recent attention and funding dedicated to malaria control have led to remarkable gains, but the disease still remains one of the leading causes of child mortality in Africa, and is the world’s most serious parasitic infection. Not only are entire communities devastated, but the disease costs Africa alone an estimated US$12 billion annually in lost GDP. Malaria’s negative impact on economic activities only reinforces poverty, destroying the chances for hundreds of millions of people to achieve better lives.

Today, we use the word malaria. Historically, names such as paludal fever and ague once described this global killer. But for hundreds of millions of people around the world, malaria means only one thing: misery.

Source: WHO World Malaria Report 2012

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