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As part of the Consumer Electronics Show next week in Las Vegas, Bill Gates is to answer questions put to him by readers of the BBC News website. So if you want to know why he ever thought that *&^%$ paperclip was a good idea or what is the logic of pressing start to close a machine down, go ahead. I’ve already sent one question in about his philanthropic foundation work on malaria in Africa. The answers will be posted on the BBC news website.
I’ve written quite a bit about malaria and the campaign that Tukae are running to raise money for a clinical officer and technician to be based at Emau Hill for a year. They will provide free malaria treatment for all children under the age of 13, following Tanzanian government guidelines. So I was interested to read in the latest copy of Scientific American that a company is developing a chemical that kills viral pathogens but also suppresses the development of the plasmodium parasite that causes malaria.
The so called ‘provector’ will use visual, olfactory and chemical signals to entice the mosquitoes to ingest the antimalarial and antiviral treatments. They haven’t finalised the delivery method yet, but it looks like it might be in the form of an artificial flower which while being shielded from other insects, will have a protective surface that will allow the mosquitoes’ proboscis to get through to reach the petals. This is a totally different way of looking at Malaria prevention, in that they are targetting the pathogens themselves, rather than the mosquitoes, which are just the carriers. Whatever it takes, it is important that this killer disease is conquered. It can and does kill children in the East Usambaras where Steve and the team are working. The World Health organisation fact sheet on malaria has the chilling statistics – ‘an African child has between 1.6 and 5.4 episodes of malaria fever each year’ and every 30 seconds a child dies of malaria.
I’ve had a couple of short emails from Steve in Tanzania with news of the goings on at Emau Hill. The composting toilets are now up and running, though I’m not sure that is the appropriate word! This means that the area in front of the dining banda can be marketed as a camp site and they are getting income from travellers camping there.
I presume this area next to the tented bandas will be the campsite.
The extension to the Women’s workshop is being built. This will be great for the team there as they will be able to source plain fabrics and dye and finish them themselves, making a unique product for them to sell.
The malaria project is going well with over £2,000 raised so far in this country and Steve tells me he will be starting to distribute treated bed nets this week. This will make a dramatic difference to the lives of the people there. Steve has had malaria in the last few months and Hilda and another member of staff are just recovering. Malaria is a devastating illness and kills three quarters of a million children every year. Providing treated bednets will reduce the incidence of malaria in both children and adults.
Unicef are reporting today that the number of children globally dying below the age of 5 has fallen below 10 million for the first time. Although at 9.7 million is nothing to be smug about at least the numbers are falling. The reduction has been through basic health measures such as immunisation, encouragement to breast feed, and insecticide treated bed nets to prevent malaria.
You can see from the above table that although Aids and Malaria are a problem, the main problem is unresolved diseases like pneumonia and diarhhoea. Until there are substantial improvemens in sanitation, childhood nutrition and access to clean water, these number will not go down any further.
Althea from the admin team for Tukae, has posted a comment reminding me that there is now a Facebook group called Tukae Friends. There are loads of photos on there from some of the volunteers that have been out there and it was nice to see some familiar faces from my visit there. Just a quick reminder that the Malaria project is still trying to raise money for a full time health worker and you can see the details and donate on the JustGiving page.
I’ve just had a comment from Althea at Tukae that their Malaria project has raised £2,000 of the proposed £5,000 so far. They are raising the money to establish a clinical officer and technician to work at the health post and provide treatment for Malaria for all local children under thirteen.
Malaria is a dreadful disease that affects most of sub saharan Africa and has been described by Bill Gates as ‘the worst thing on the planet’. He has put his money where his mouth is and is contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to malaria research. Although clinical trials of a vaccine have started in Tanzania, an effective vaccine is a long way away, meanwhile, the only means of controlling the spread of this epidemic is to provide suitable treatment. This means drugs which cost money. Which brings me back to the project – they have a just giving page here and anyone can donate.
I’ve just received the latest National Geographic E-magazine and there is a timely article in it about Malaria. There’s also a great multimedia presentation here. It not only charts the course of the disease within the human body and the history of it but gives an account of the fight to overcome this killer. It has been around for thousands of years, with some Egyptian mummies having signs of malaria. It is thought likely that Alexander the Great died from it and it was instrumental in stopping the armies of Attila the Hun and Ghengis Khan. I know I’ve posted on this before but it is the biggest killer on Earth. This year one billion people will be struck down by it and at least a million will die – mostly children under the age of five. The main article is here - there is a lot of it, but it is worth reading.
These leads nicely to a new initiative that my brother is setting up with Tukae in Tanzania. Just before I arrived there in February Dr Linda Barry spent two months working with the locals at the health post on Emau Hill. During this time she saw and treated many children with malaria. In discussion with Steven and Father Baruti in Emau Hill they decided to set up a one year project to effect the local situation. They are aiming to raise £5,000 to pay for a clinical officer and a technician for one year, to provide effective treatment for all children under the age of 13, provide adequate drug supplies and follow WHO and Tanzanian government guidelines.
Protecting against malaria is not cheap. When I was there in February/March this year it cost me nearly £100 for prophylactic drugs. You can get cheaper ones but they are not as effective.
The project has a justgiving site – here.
I’m heading over to Blackpool for three days today for work and to prepare for our annual conference at the De Vere Hotel on Friday. I’ll still be updating this and will be posting various short messages on Jaiku. There are some definite advantages of being in Blackpool – one being some good shopping – second largest Primark in the country!
I’ve just checked the stats for the blog and it’s number 53 in the WordPress ‘Growing blogs’ table – wow. Not sure exactly what that means but hey – yesterday was the highest hit rate ever.
Bill Nighy was on the news last night with a report about how aid is working in Tanzania. Primary schooling has been free in Tanzania since 2001 but the consequence of this is that there are sometimes class sizes of 100 or more. In fact Kizzi and Alex at Tukae had classes of this size at the school at Amani.
Although Bill was at a totally different area of Tanzania from where I was the problem of equipping schools is country wide. He also visited a hospital where relatives of patients had to carry them miles to get there for treatment. When they are there they have to stay with them to feed them as the hospital can only afford one bowl of porridge per day. When staff were taken ill at Tukae, usually malaria, they were fortunate enough to be taken down to the hospital by Steve in the 4 x 4. I think he’s had some pretty hairy trips when the weather was bad – it was tricky enough when the weather was good!
April 25th was Africa Malaria Day and good old George Dubbya did a dance with the Kankouran West African Dance Company. I am making no comparisons with the late Boris Yeltsin!
The picture is courtesy of Getty Images. It seems that corporations and countries worldwide are starting to work together to improve the treatment and prevention of Malaria.
Malaria is a real and everyday threat to people living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Prophylactic drugs are expensive – it cost me over £70 for just over three week’s worth of Malarone. The newly developed ACT‘s (Artemisinin-based combination Therapies) treatment is equally as expensive. The RollBackMalaria partnership is providing a global approach to fighting malaria. In Tanga there is a great deal of development within the hospital grounds funded by the Gates foundation for reasearch into Malaria.