Weekly Columns

Malaria causes more than 650,000 deaths each year, the vast majority children under the age of five. This is unacceptable. I have seen first-hand the devastation malaria causes the young and the poor, but the good news is that this disease is preventable, treatable and curable and we have the tools to stop malaria in its tracks and end this deadly disease worldwide.  

April 25th of each year is internationally recognized as World Malaria Day. As a member of the Senate Caucus on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases and founder and former co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, I am a fierce advocate for providing the tools and resources necessary to people around the globe in order to combat this infectious disease. 

The U.S. has done a great deal and we should all be proud of our efforts to combat malaria in developing countries.  We have made remarkable progress to reach our goal of eliminating malaria deaths by 2015.  In fact, the latest World Malaria Report estimates malaria mortality rates decreased by 26 percent in the first decade of the millennium, and an estimated 1.1 million malaria deaths were averted primarily as a result of increased interventions. While momentum is our side, there is still more work to be done. 

Malaria was eradicated in the U.S. some 50 years ago, thanks in part to the work done in Arkansas to find the cause of this deadly disease.  Efforts to eliminate malaria in Crossett in the early 1900s became a model used across the country and the world after results showed a 72 percent decrease in the disease in one year of the campaign. Arkansas has been a leader on this front and we can be proud of the continued efforts of Arkansans who are champions in the global fight against malaria today. 

The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) is actively working rid the world of malaria and Dr. Bernard Nahlen, a graduate of University of Arkansas Medical School, has been a leading researcher and advocate of this issue. Dr. Nahlen serves as Deputy Coordinator of PMI, a position he’s held since 2007, putting him in charge of malaria prevention efforts by the federal government in 19 African countries.

Arkansans are doing their part in this global effort. The United Methodist Foundation pledges to contribute $1 for every $1, up to $333,333, raised for Imagine No Malaria by Arkansas United Methodist congregations. This initiative is a partnership with global health organizations to raise money to combat malaria in a comprehensive manner through prevention and the distribution of bed nets, education, and communication about the dangers of the disease and what we can do to beat it.  

We have the tools to accomplish our goal of ending malaria deaths by 2015. Things as simple as providing mosquito nets and clean water have saved countless lives and we must continue our commitment and work with the international community to provide the necessary resources. Spraying homes with insecticides in targeted areas and providing families insecticide-treated bed nets to sleep under are methods to prevent malaria. We must also work to increase the availability of medicines that treat malaria. 

We can be proud of the efforts of Arkansans who are at the frontlines of eliminating malaria. We can end this destructive disease once and for all and improve the quality of life for millions across the world.