Digba Massaquoi waits with her 5-year-old son, Lahai, who is ill, at the health clinic in Benduma, outside Bo, Sierra Leone. Beside her on the bench are insecticide-treated mosquito nets provided by Imagine No Malaria as part of an integrated health campaign. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

Today we have guest post from Eric Walker, a member of Vashon UMC and an employee of PATH, an international healthcare organization that’s working to develop a malaria vaccine. Below, he gives us the inside scoop on how the vaccine is coming along and how we can help in the meantime. Thanks, Eric, for your powerful testimony! 

Why should we fund Imagine No Malaria? 

Big campaigns like Imagine No Malaria are sometimes hard to support because they seem so distant and not related to our daily lives. Plus, it’s another in a long line of asks for money. Let me tell you why you should give to this one.

Malaria is a very serious illness that debilitates and kills, especially kids. Here are a few facts:
  • HALF THE WORLD IS AT RISK. There were an estimated 198 million malaria cases worldwide in 2013, mostly pregnant women and children.
    Malaria accounts for half of preventable absenteeism in African schools, causing up to 10 million missed days each year. Malaria also can cause lasting learning disabilities.
    We need to close the gap to keep the drive toward zero malaria deaths going. Without sustained and predictable long-term funding, the gains we’ve made could even be reversed.
    While not all adult cases of malaria are fatal, the disease keeps adults out of work and robs families of precious disposable income. In all, malaria costs Africa an estimated $12 billion a year in lost productivity.

Now that I maybe have your attention, I want to tell you what I learned while I worked at the global health organization PATH about why continuous support to fight malaria is essential.

The elimination of malaria will not come from mosquito bed nets. It will take a vaccine to immunize children against malaria at a very early age. PATH is helping invent a vaccine with very generous support from the Gates Foundation ($200 million so far) and in partnership with pharmaceutical companies. It is a hard vaccine to invent not only because malaria is such a complicated disease but also because vaccines for children are especially hard to make safe. The best vaccine candidate has shown 50% efficacy in children in a recent clinical trial. This may not sound like much because we are use to vaccines being more than 95% effective, but it so much better than any other vaccine candidate tried. This is great progress. Imagine if half of the kids can be protected from malaria! The invention work continues to make this vaccine safe and even more effective for kids.

The problem is that it will take 10 more years before this vaccine is readily available across Africa.

This is where you come in. We need your help to keep buying the bed nets and other interim solutions while we wait for the vaccine. We need 10 years of steady funding for preventing and treating malaria with the tools we have available today.

You probably are asking “How can my small contribution make a dent in this hugely expensive endeavor?” The answer is simple. The big funders, even Gates, don’t have nearly enough money to keep buying nets and supplies while we wait for the vaccine. We need lots and lots of small contributions (think crowd funding) everywhere. Do the math. Yours will count.

It is kind of like NPR. Every year there is a membership drive to raise the money needed to run the radio station. Malaria needs NPR-like funding for 10 years.

Please make a recurring contribution at imaginenomalaria.org today!

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