Information and stories about malaria.

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The Better World Fund was founded in 1998 by media mogul, philanthropist, and humanitarian Ted Turner. The man who brought us the cable station CNN started the Fund as an umbrella organization to facilitate public-private partnerships to address a range of global concerns, including health crises and environmental problems.  The fund also serves as an advocacy and outreach organization to support the work of the United Nations, and to lobby for the US Government to provide political, financial and sometimes military support for UN humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts.

The major initiative of the Better World Fund is the Better World Campaign, whose publicity and advocacy work currently focuses on what the organization calls its “key issues.”  The top three of those issues are climate change, global health, and international security.

In each of these areas, the Better World Fund and the Better World Campaign work to build support for UN initiatives.  On climate change, they advocate for adoption of the Copenhagen Accord, which establishes a registry to keep track of the ways that different nations are responding to climate change. The Accord also commits developed countries to providing up to $100 billion per year by 2020 to reduce emissions and take other measures to address climate change.

In the area of global health, the Better World Fund supports UN education and treatment efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria, and it supports vaccination efforts to eradicate polio.  In the area of international security, the Fund advocates for UN efforts to end nuclear proliferation, to combat international terrorism, and to enforce maritime laws governing the activities of governments and businesses, and the management of marine natural resources.

The Fund’s Board of Directors includes former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, civil rights leader Andrew Young, and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan.

– Délice Williams

Sources: Better World Campaign, Charity Navigator
Photo: Glogster

Philippe-Douste-Blazy
In an interview with the British publication The Guardian, Philippe Douste-Blazy, special adviser to the U.N. secretary-general on innovative finance for development, and chairman of the global health partnership Unitaid,  discussed his interest in development, its relationship to poverty and extremism, and the goals of his organization.

Douste-Blazy recounted how his interest in development was sparked by a conversation he had with former French President Chirac, who emphasized for him the  political importance of caring for the 1.5 billion people living in extreme poverty. Chirac’s arguments helped convince Douste-Blazy that the more the world becomes interconnected, the more inequality there is, and that “breed[s] ground for conflict.” Douste-Blazy personalized these issues by stating that if he were an 18-year old living in a developing country and he had to watch his family die from malaria because “the world could not give them less than a pound while knowing that in London or Paris a couple may spend 100 [euros] on dinner, [he could] understand how poverty can be a catalyst for extremist views.”

In his interview Douste-Blazy also described how Unitaid, which uses innovative financing to help facilitate accessibility to the diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis in developing countries, started off with the concept of raising plane ticket prices by 1 euro and donating that 1 to raise these funds. Unitaid was established in 2006 by Brazil, Chile, France, Norway, and the U.K. Today, various members support this mission, including organizations from the global south. Douste-Blazy asserted that this mission’s key goal is to show the international community that this “levy tax on plane tickets” can produce solid results through new financing models further beyond the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. To address the financial problems of development, he said that there is a need for “new sources of innovative financing,” that invest in the poor of today so that they can become the “economic actors of tomorrow” cutting off the ties between poverty and extremism.

Leen Abdallah

Source: Guardian

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For most Americans, there are few things in life more irritating than a door-to-door salesperson. They bypass the bubble we’ve created around ourselves using newfangled technologies like caller ID and appear unannounced at the door with the intent to sell you a vacuum cleaner. In 21st century America, we prefer to buy and we hate to be sold.

For people living in Uganda however, a stranger at your door could save your life.

Living Goods is a social business based in San Francisco that seeks to create a sustainable delivery system of products and services essential for health and well being in the developing world. These products, which include anti-malaria medications, clean burning cook stoves, solar lamps and fortified foods, undoubtedly improve and sometimes save the lives of those living in poverty. But all too often there is no infrastructure in place to ensure those who need these goods have access to them.

Enter the Living Goods Community Health Promoter. CHP’s are the delivery system for Living Goods, going door-to-door in their communities delivering over 70 different products to customers at 20-40% below market prices. A CHP, usually a woman but the program has recently expanded to include a few men, gets his or her start by purchasing a “business in a bag”, a branded duffel bag from Living Goods containing everything they need to start a franchise. They then receive two weeks of intensive training, learning how to diagnose common illnesses like malaria and when to refer a customer to a clinic. Ongoing mentorship and marketing support are also provided. Eve Alituvera, a Community Healthy Promoter in Uganda said of her impact on the community “I offer them good health plus commodities – that’s the business”.

Malaria is a disease that’s particularly problematic in Uganda. It is estimated that Uganda has the highest rate of infection in the world, nearly 478 cases per 1,000 people per year. While this is a highly treatable infection and drugs are free at public hospitals, they are often out of stock or too far from those who need them. What’s worse, nearly 30% of anti-malaria drugs sold at pharmacies are counterfeit. Fortunately, the presence of Living Goods CHP’s has succeeded in reducing the effects of malaria on locals. A 2012 report by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government found that the presence of a Living Goods CHP increased the use of anti-malarial drugs by children believed to be infected with the disease by 40%.

Today, there are over 1000 Community Health Promoters active in Uganda and Living Goods is planning to implement the model in Kenya beginning mid 2013.

– Erin Ponsonby 

Source: Living Goods, The Guardian
Photo: Time Magazine

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For developed world travelers, malaria is an exotic hazard, and easily preventable. Yet for many underdeveloped communities, malaria is an epidemic. 90% of all deaths from malaria in 2010 were in Africa, with the majority of victims being under five years old. Spread by a mosquito bite, symptoms of malaria can show up 10-15 days after being bitten and include fever, vomiting, sweating, weakness, and muscle pain. Once diagnosed, malaria is treatable with artemisinin-based combination therapy. But left untreated, the disease can be fatal. Because it takes only a single bite to be infected, and mosquito populations are booming, it is very difficult to prevent the spread of the disease.

Many international health organizations have been working on ways to help control the disease with one of the most effective being the use of insecticide treated mosquito nets over beds because the species of mosquito which spreads malaria bites mainly at dusk and dawn. Vector control (i.e. the control of animals carrying pathogens) is another method used, as mosquitos have specific breeding preferences, mainly in residual puddles of water. The World Health Organization also encourages the use of insecticide around homes to protect families and communities.

Using the current strategies there is hope that the spread of malaria may be one day halted. Recently, four countries have been declared as malaria free – the UAE in 2007, Morocco and Turkmenistan in 2010, and Armenia in 2011. The greatest challenges, however, remain in sub-Saharan Africa.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Source: WHO
Photo: Life Saver

Global Partnership Develops New Vaccine for TB, Malaria, HIV

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided a $2.9 million grant for the development of vaccines against tuberculosis, HIV, and malaria. The grant was issued to Aeras, a nonprofit biotech advancing TB vaccines for the world, the University of Oxford, and Okairos, a biopharmaceutical company specializing in T-cell vaccines. The three groups will work together to develop scalable methods to enable large-scale production of multiple novel chimpanzee adenovirus vector constructs.

The Interim CEO of Aeras, Tom Evans, said the “effort to improve optimization and scale-up under current good manufacturing practices could also potentially benefit our peers in HIV and malaria vaccine development.”

The University of Oxford is currently developing multiple vaccines, including vaccines against HIV, malaria, and TB in clinical trials in the UK and Africa. Aeras has focused primarily on tuberculosis vaccine research and development.

This construct will be Okairos’ proprietary technology platform that uses potent chimpanzee adenovirus vectors to stimulate robust T-cell and antibody responses against selected antigens.

Chimpanzee adenovirus-based vaccines have been shown to safely induce exceptionally potent cellular immunity in adults, children and infants, and are in clinical trials involving over 1,000 vaccinees in seven countries.

– Essee Oruma

Source: allAfrica
Source: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The use of mobile telephone in Africa has spread so rapidly that in 2001 mobile phones first outnumbered fixed lines, and by the end of 2012, 70% of Africa’s population was expected to have a cell phone. Communication has never been so easy and it has opened up new opportunities across the globe.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), in collaboration with technical partners, developed a low cost, user-friendly survey methodology that allows data to be collected using inexpensive and widely available cell phones.

The new system is called Rapid Mobile Phone-based survey (RAMP), which is sufficiently flexible to be used for a range of tasks in many fields. “We are now producing preliminary results within 24 hours and a full draft report of a survey within three days,” says Mac Otten, RAMP developer for IFRC. “This allows us to analyze the data quicker with the end result being that we can adapt interventions quicker to the needs of the most vulnerable.”

Recent results from a RAMP survey in the Kenya project are impressive: 90% of households own at least one net and net use is at 80%  for the total population. Net distribution, combined with a community approach to malaria treatment called the Home Management of Malaria project, demonstrates that empowering communities to respond comprehensively to malaria is part of the winning formula to beat the disease.

But malaria is not the only problem.

In Kenya, where 35% of children under five are stunted, 16% are underweight and, one Kenyan woman in 35 faces risk of maternal death, having the right information at the right time is vital to save the lives of both mothers and their children.

“There hasn’t been a nutrition survey in our project area for a long time,” says Mwanaisha Marusa Hamisi, Assistant Secretary General for Coast Province, Kenya Red Cross Society. “Although we knew nutrition was an issue, the information collected through RAMP will allow us to better target volunteer actions. We need to tackle specific attitudes and behaviours to achieve results.”

The project in Kenya is now moving towards comprehensive maternal and child health actions at the community level to provide broader health services closer to the people who need them most.

– Essee Oruma

Source: allAfrica

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Jay Keasling a professor of chemical engineering at UC Berkeley will finally see his breakthrough mass-produced.  On April 10 the pharmaceutical company Sanofi will produce a partially synthetic version of artemisinin, a chemical critical to making today’s front-line antimalarial drug based on the scientist’s discovery. This new synthetic artemisinin is the first of its kind and could potentially save the lives of the hundreds of millions of people in developing countries who contract malaria each year. Already, 650,000 people, most of them children, die of the disease annually.

Over the centuries, sweet wormwood can be traced back to Ancient Chinese time as a treatment for malaria. The active ingredient in sweet wormwood, artemisinin, was rediscovered in the 1970’s and used commercially to treat malaria. Since then, a combination of chemicals and drugs have been used to treat malaria called ACT (Artemisinin Combination Therapy). In 2005 the World Health Organization declared ACT as the most effective malaria treatment available. Consequentially, demand for artemisinin has increased dramatically.

Today sweet wormwood is grown in Southeast Asia, China and Africa, and the quality, supply and cost of the extract varies greatly. By synthetically creating the chemical, Keasling hopes to reduce the use of such a resource as well as stabilize the quality and quantities of artemisinin in anti-malaria drugs in circulation today. Keasling also hopes that synthetic artemisinin will result in lowering costs to help get the life saving medicine to the people that need it the most.

-Kira Maixner

SourceUC Berkeley News Center

PhotoReuters

Since the World Health Organization identified artemisinin, the key ingredient of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), global demand for ACTs has increased. The World Health Organization noted that ACTs are the most effective malaria treatment available. ACTs allow for  a more consistent supply than the existing botanical supply of artemisinin which is derived from the sweet wormwood plant that is harvested in just a few regions of the world. Its volatile cost and unpredictable supply has put antimalarial treatment out of reach for many people who are the most at risk. Multiple sources of high-quality artemisinin will strengthen the artemisinin supply chain, contribute to a more stable price, and ultimately ensure greater availability of treatment to people suffering from malaria.

The global pharmaceutical company, Sanofi, is now producing semisynthetic artemisinin in its factory in Italy that will be able to bolster the existing botanical supply and meet approximately one-third of the global demand for antimalarial treatment.

Reaching this point is important because promoting a steady and affordable supply of the drug is a critical part of our efforts to ultimately eradicate malaria and advance health equity.

– Essee Oruma

Sources: PATH, allAfrica

Could Cell Phones End Malaria?
Harvard epidemiologist Caroline Buckee has figured out a way to use a cell phone tower in Kericho, Kenya to help in the fight against malaria. She was able to interpret data showing that individuals who are making phone calls or sending text messages in Kericho were more likely to travel to a different region in Kenya, which is a known hotspot for Malaria.

This data has fed into a new set of predictive models. These models have shown the most effective places to attack the malaria parasite, showing researchers sources and hotspots. This data mining will help to organize a currently unorganized system of record keeping. The models may also help design new measures that are likely to include campaigns to send text messages to people warning them to use bed netting, as well as to help officials choose where to focus their control efforts.

Eliminating malaria is just one of the potential benefits of this technology. It can also build tools that health-care and government workers can use to detect and monitor epidemics, disasters, and optimize transportation systems. Data mining could prove particularly useful in poorer countries where there is currently little to no actual model in place.

This type of phone tracking could also be useful for other trends and figures such as employment trends, poverty, transportation and economic activity within a given region. Countries without a functioning census could benefit quite a bit from this type of technology. Cell phones have the capability to provide researchers with all of the infrastructures that are already built in the developed world.

Careful precautions are being taken to ensure an individual’s privacy is not infringed upon. However, this has not stopped many corporations from expressing concerns about releasing their customer’s data to the wrong hands.

Data-mining is handing a road map to a population’s movements and trends pinpointing them in given locations. Researchers, like Buckee are taking every step possible to show people the importance of data-mining. Buckee has explained that with phone data, the possibility to target drug-resistant strains of the malaria parasite becomes a possibility. This could help eliminate the proliferation of the disease.

“This is the future of epidemiology,” Buckee says. “If we are to eradicate malaria, this is how we will do it.”

– Caitlin Zusy
Source: Technology Review
Photo:NPR

Malaria: Everything You Need to Know About the Disease
Those who have visited a developing country are familiar with doctors (and parents) constantly reminding us to take our malaria pills before departure. These travelers realize that the pills will prevent them from contracting the disease, but what exactly is malaria? How do you get it? How does it spread? These are questions that many people in America and the Western world have never had to ask themselves. However, for the million people who die from malaria each year, the disease is very real and very dangerous. It all comes down to one little parasite.

Actually, there are five different types of parasites that cause malaria. These tiny organisms cannot survive without a host. The most fatal, but preventable, kind is called Plasmodium falciparu and it causes a majority of total malaria deaths every year.

Malaria spreads through humans and female Anopheles mosquitoes. The infected mosquito ingests blood from a human to feed its eggs and simultaneously injects its victim with malaria organisms. The parasites now in the person’s body are absorbed by liver cells and quickly replicate, can remain dormant for up to several years, and then burst into the bloodstream, replicating and destroying blood cells.

Symptoms of malaria are often similar to those of the flu. These include chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, and fatigue. However, if malaria is not immediately treated, it becomes severe malaria. The infected person will then begin to experience worse symptoms, like coma, difficulty breathing, low blood sugar, and severe anemia. When malaria becomes severe and goes untreated, it can lead to death. Children are particularly vulnerable because of their underdeveloped immune systems.

International health organizations are working diligently to reduce the number of malaria cases in the world. Ways to prevent malaria include insecticide-treated mosquito nets and insecticide spray. There are also medicines available to cure malaria infections. The World Health Organization has recommended artemisinin-based combination therapy to treat the disease, but a diagnosis is often just as important in preventing malaria deaths as medicine. Malaria researchers are developing a vaccine; unfortunately, it has not yet been perfected.

The need for new malaria treatments is imperative for everyone living in developing countries, but especially for children. Given how preventable and treatable malaria is, travelers need not worry; however, medicine often does not reach impoverished people in third world countries who really need it. With public support, health organizations are working to make sure this becomes a trend of the past.

– Mary Penn
Source: MMV
Photo:  X Index