A Model Fight Against Malaria
New York Times Published: November 22, 2005
This month the rains come to southern Africa, and with them, death from malaria. In Zambia, though, where 30,000 people die a year of malaria, almost all of them children, things are about to change. With the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Zambia is embarking on a campaign to cut malaria deaths by 75 percent over three years.
Most of the money will come from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. But the project was organized by the Gates Foundation, which has recently made several huge donations to speed the development of a malaria vaccine and better medicines and insecticides.
The foundation's donation to the Zambia program is only $35 million. But that is because there is no mystery and no enormous expense to fighting malaria. Everyone knows what is effective - providing insecticide-treated nets for people to sleep under, spraying the insides of houses with insecticide, giving drugs prophylactically to pregnant women, and replacing ineffective medicines with new ones that cure the disease. These things work, and they are cheap. South Africa has proved that with a business-financed project to eradicate malaria in selected regions. But Zambia will be the first test on a national scale.
The Gates Foundation chose it because it was already doing the right things, and malaria deaths have dropped in the last few years. But Zambia did not have the money and technical expertise to do it nationally. Success will be measured over a few years, but the next few months will tell whether the government is doing the job to reach its goal of covering 80 percent of the population - how many districts are being sprayed, and whether effective medicines are getting to people who need them.
If all goes well, Zambia will show the world how cost-effective fighting malaria can be.