U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), co-chair of the Senate Working Group on Malaria and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, joined international aid organizations and advocates around the country Wednesday in marking World Malaria Day.
Malaria is a parasitic blood disease spread by mosquitoes, and while it was eradicated from the United States in 1951, the debilitating disease still kills 655,000 people each year around the world. It is most prevalent in the developing world, with 90 percent of related deaths occurring in Africa. The majority of those killed are pregnant women and children under five years old.
"While we have come a long way in lowering the number of malaria-related deaths, we still have much work to do to stem the spread of this preventable, treatable disease," Senator Coons said. "Through public and private research, we are developing promising new advancements in eradicating malaria globally. Thanks to a nearly $10 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biology in Delaware is working on clinical development of a transmission-blocking vaccine that would render bites from malarial mosquito harmless. This technology has the capability to provide the capacity and cost effectiveness necessary to treat patients across the developing world."
A leader in the Senate on malaria prevention, Senator Coons will speak at an event hosted by Malaria No More Wednesday afternoon on U.S. research and development in the field of malaria. Entitled, "Advancements in U.S. Science and Technology in Malaria," the event will showcase the work of top U.S. malaria researchers and innovators from private companies and academic and research institutions.
In partnership with Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Senator Coons has sponsored two resolutions supporting the goals of World Malaria Day, which aims to end malaria deaths by 2015. He also supports U.S. leadership to combat malaria as a critical component of the President's Global Health Initiative.
"Ending malaria deaths will have a positive impact on our global economy and national security," Senator Coons said. "The devastating health impacts of malaria hold African economies back, costing the continent $12 billion a year and consuming as much as 40 percent of the continent's health resources. If we end the scourge of malaria, we will see economic productivity skyrocket, reducing the need for future aid while also promoting robust trading partners for the United States. A stable, healthy society is one more likely to be peaceful and democratic and any time we can reduce our national security challenges by creating these favorable conditions is a good investment."
World Malaria Day was instituted by the World Health Assembly at its 60th session in May 2007 as a day for recognizing the global effort to provide effective control of malaria. Specifically, it is an opportunity for countries in the affected regions to learn from each other's experiences and support each other's efforts; for new donors to join a global partnership against malaria; for research and academic institutions to flag their scientific advances to both experts and general public; and for international partners, companies and foundations to showcase their efforts and reflect on how to scale up what has worked.