Information and stories about malaria.

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

 

Global Health Research Encourages Malaria Prevention in India
The Plasmodium parasite, otherwise known as malaria, carried by the Anopheles mosquito and spread via a bite on the skin has long been an intermittent public health concern for the residents of Northwestern India. However, thanks to some innovative forecasting involving summer sea temperatures of the South Atlantic, public health officials can implement a policy of malaria prevention in India.

Researchers at Michigan State University were able to link colder than usual July sea temperatures of the tropical South Atlantic to heavier than average fall monsoonal rainfall in Northwestern India. How is heavier rainfall associated with malaria outbreaks? When arid to semi-arid climates undergo heavy wet seasons, surface rainfall puddles allow for the breeding of malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquitoes. Prior to these findings, public health officials would have typically had only a month to facilitate a policy of malaria prevention in India before the mosquitoes would reach maturity and begin to infect the populace. Now officials have up to a four-month lead time to take preventative measures, such as indoor insecticide spraying, in order to mitigate the spread of Malaria infection.

In regards to the climate link between cooler July temperatures in the South Atlantic and malaria outbreaks in late October, Ecological Professor Mercedes Pascual noted that “The climate link we have uncovered can be used as an indicator of malaria risk, on the practical side, we hope these findings can be used as part of an early warning system.” Thus, this “early warning system” can allow for a robust policy of malaria prevention in India to be implemented in the months leading up to the outbreak.

Research findings such as this, linking cooler South Atlantic water temperatures to malaria outbreaks in Northwest India is great news regarding global health disease prevention. Furthermore, by having the foresight of knowing when and where the next malaria epidemic is likely to occur, smart measures can be enacted in order to promote malaria prevention in India.

– Brian Turner

Source Science Daily
Photo National Geographic

Mosquito Nets Save Lives in Mozambique
Many foreign aid organizations assist developing countries not by sending money, but by providing health and educational equipment for impoverished people. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is among the organizations that employ this method. A case in point is that since 2007, USAID has delivered 20 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets to Mozambique.

The impact of these mosquito nets has been invaluable, says Polly Dunford, the interim USAID Director in Mozambique. The nets have decreased the number of malaria cases in the country, most notably in cases of children.

USAID partnered with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to fight malaria in Mozambique. PEPFAR uses aid money from USAID to distribute the mosquito nets and insecticide spray, counsel pregnant women about malaria prevention, and produce more effective malaria drugs.

In addition to providing assistance to reduce cases of malaria, USAID has been focusing on helping farmers become more successful. Given Mozambique’s ocean accessibility, it has the potential to become a regional food supplier, says Dunford. USAID has been supporting the agriculture sector through training programs that educate farmers on how to more productively sell their food products.

Mozambique receives about $500 million from USAID annually and a majority of that money goes towards the health sectors, like PEPFAR and other malaria prevention programs. The country has high levels of experienced economic growth, however, many people are still living in poverty. With the help of USAID, the number of impoverished and those dying from malaria in Mozambique will continue to decrease.

– Mary Penn

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: World Vision

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Africa produces some of the most brilliant artists, athletes, and activists worldwide.  From the media industry to the political stage, these African celebrities are working to improve lives.  The Borgen Project presents the top 10 African celebrities to follow.

1. Patricia Amira, Nigerian, TV Personality

Patricia Amira is a self-proclaimed “optimistic realist” and “closet artist.”  She is the “Oprah” of Africa and hosts one of the continent’s most popular talk shows.  The Patricia Show transcends national boundaries and identities.  The show focuses on achievements across Africa and aims to create social and cultural transformation. The Pan-African talk show is broadcasted in over 45 African countries and averages over 10 million viewers.  She currently serves as the Director of the Festival of African Fashion and Arts.  The festival encourages collaboration among designers and emphasizes the importance of artists.  Amira is also a spokesperson against human trafficking.

2. Nneka, Nigerian, Musician

Nneka is a soul musician of Nigerian-German descent.  Investigative journalism and philosophy inform her music, and she often writes about poverty, war, and and social justice issues.  Nneka emphasizes the importance of understanding balance and harmony.  “It’s important that you recognize yourself as part of the system, too, and that the only way we can make things work is by realizing we are part of the same entity,” Nneka said.

3. Didier Drogba, Ivorian, Soccer Player

Didier Drogba was a leading striker for England’s Chelsea football club and head captain of the Cote D’Ivoire national team.  His performance on the field is impressive, but he made headlines at the 2006 FIFA World Cup for something much greater.  Drogba begged on live television for a cease-fire on the Ivory Coast.  The warring factions subsided within one week.  The Telegraph reporter Alex Hayes noted that Drogba is “the face of his country; the symbol of a new, post-civil war Ivory Coast.”  He also created the Didier Drogba Foundation, a foundation “to provide financial and material support in both health and education to the African people.”  The foundation recently partnered with United Against Malaria (UAM) to help fight malaria.

4. Wole Soyinka, Nigerian, Playwright

Wole Soyinka is a playwright, author, and political activist from Nigeria.  Soyinka entered the political stage after lobbying for a cease-fire during Nigeria’s civil war.  “The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism,” Soyinka said.  This led to his imprisonment for 22 months.  He was released in 1969, and he began publishing again.  Soyinka became the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986.  His novel The Interpreters analyzes the experiences of six different African intellectuals.

5. Neill Blomkamp, South African, Movie Director

Neill Blomkamp is a movie director known for his documentary, handheld cinema style.  He blends natural and computer-generated elements effortlessly.  Blomkamp co-wrote and directed District 9.  The film focused on extraterrestrial refugees in a South African slum.  The title derived from real events during the apartheid era at District Six, Cape Town. The film received international fame, and box office sales totaled $200 million.  Time magazine named Blomkamp one of the “100 Most Influential People of 2009.” 

6. Binyavanga Wainaina, Kenyan, Author

Binyavanga Wainaina founded the first literary magazine in East Africa, entitled Kwani?.  The magazine is known as “the most renown literary journal in sub-Saharan Africa.”  Wainaina created the magazine after winning the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing.  The Caine Prize is an annual literary award for the best original short story by an African writer.  He is known for authoring “How to Write About Africa.”  The short story is known as one of the most satirical pieces ever written about Africa.

 7. Genevieve Nnaji, Nigerian, Actress

Genevieve Nnaji skyrocketed from a middle class upbringing to Nollywood stardom.  She is one of the most popular African celebrities.  Nnaji grew up in Lagos, Nigeria as one of eight children.  Nnaji began her acting career at eight years old on Ripples, a Nigerian soap opera.  She is now one of Africa’s most popular actresses.  At only 32 years old, she has starred in over 80 feature films.  She is one of the best paid actresses in Nollywood—Nigeria’s feature film industry.   “I have always maintained that when they [Hollywood directors and actors] are ready for a young African woman to take part in a project that they will come looking for us,” Nnaji said.

8. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian, Writer

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of Africa’s leading contemporary authors.  She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun.  Adichie delivered a popular TED Talk after publishing The Thing around Your Neck, a collection of short stories.  She warns against judging a person or country based on limited information.  “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story,” Adichie said.  Nigerian history and tragedies inspire her literature.  She is one of the most notable authors of disaporan literature.

9. Rokia Traoré, Malian, Musician

Rokia Traoré became famous in 1997 with the release of her first album Mouneissa.  Malian singer Ali Farka Touré helped Traoré develop her sound, and she later earned “Best African Discovery” from the Radio France Internationale.  Traoré’s father was a Malian Diplomat, and she traveled extensively as a child.  Her travels in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, France, and Belgium influenced her music.  Traoré joined the 30 Songs/30 Days campaign in September 2012.  The campaign supported the Half the Sky movement, based on the book by the same name.  The movement focuses on sex trafficking, sexual violence, and female education.

10. Alek Wek, Sudanese, Supermodel

Alex Wek is a supermodel, fashion designer, and political activist.  Wek fled Sudan at the age of 14 to escape the civil war. She moved to London, England with her parents and eight siblings and was later discovered at an outdoor market.  Ford Models, one of the world’s top modeling agencies, signed her in 1996.  By 1997, she was the first African model to appear on the cover of Elle magazine.  Wek continues to model but is also a member of the U.S. Committee for Refugees’ Advisory Council.  Wek works with World Vision to combat AIDS.  She is also an ambassador for Doctors Without Borders in Sudan.  She belongs to the Dinka ethnic group

– Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: Forbes

indonesian-frog
A new study led by Harvard Medical School researcher Matthew Bonds is linking an environment’s biodiversity and public health, namely its susceptibility to the spread of disease. Bonds found that countries with decreased biodiversity “will have a heavier burden of vector-borne and parasitic diseases,” an assertion which has drastic implications for public health systems worldwide.

Previously, some might have suggested that a lack of funding is the biggest roadblock to protecting people from pathogens. These new findings indicate that governments may be well-served in their quests for healthy citizens by protecting natural ecosystems. Bonds explains that “the more organisms you have out there, the more things there are that can interrupt the life cycle of disease, and the less concentration you’ll have of any vector.” When humans urbanize an area, many species are forced out of their natural habitats and end up dying off in large numbers. Pests and other disease-carrying creatures breed freely, resulting in a much greater risk of exposure for humans.

The United Nations estimates that one out of every three species on Earth faces extinction. Bonds uses this statistic to demonstrate how a country like Indonesia faces a grave threat from losing its biodiversity: given a 15% decline in this metric, the country would face a 30% larger disease burden. By elucidating biodiversity’s link to public health, Bonds demonstrates yet another area in which undamaged ecosystems provide major benefits to humans who can exist alongside natural cycles, instead of in place of them.

Jake Simon

Source: NPR
Photo: About Indo