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Fighting Malaria: Nets or Drugs?
Alex Steffen, 30 Dec 04

Even as the death toll in Asia continues to rise, the threat of an even greater tragedy looms. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières and the UN are warning that disease outbreaks could kill more people than the tsunamis themselves.

Worse still, this is not a short-term crisis. The destruction wreaked by earthquakes and waves has left five million people homeless, according to the WHO (others think the actual number may be twice as high), and destroyed water and sanitation systems. In addition, the conditions seem ideal for a long-term rise in the conditions which breed malarial mosquitoes. That alone could lead to an on-going tragedy.

But malaria is also a problem we're learning how to fix. DDT, the chemical usually used to control mosquitoes, has dire health and environmental consequences. But while we're still a long way off from a malaria vaccine, two other approaches are proving effective.

The first is anti-malarial netting. While pesticide-drenched nets aren't new, the Olyset bed net, woven from durable plastic impregnated with the insecticide permethrin, is a breakthrough: longer-lasting cheaper and easier to use. And the excellent venture philanthropy outfit the Acumen Fund (which we'll cover in depth one of these days) has figured out ways to create sustainable bed net manufacturing enterprises in the developing world. Their approach simultaneously fights malaria and creates jobs. Cool.

The Gates Foundation, on the other hand, investing in nonprofit pharmaceutical companies like OneWorld Health to create better means of delivering anti-malarial drugs, particularly "a microbial factory for the compound artemisinin, currently the most effective treatment for malaria." In other words, they're breeding vats microbes which can spit these drugs out for a fraction of their current cost. It's also all royalty-free work, ensuring that the drugs will remain affordable. The hope is that these treatments can work to battle outbreaks until a vaccine is available.

Which approach is best? That's a matter of real debate. The answer is probably both, at least until we succeed in breeding mosquitoes which are themselves immune to malaria, ending the problem forever.

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Comments

Confirmed death toll: 116,000
United.co.uk lists aid organizations and charities asking for money to provide clean water, food, shelter and medical supplies.
PLease give generously.
United with South East Asia


Posted by: United on 30 Dec 04

i have only just stumbled across your website(not even sure how i got here) think the Olyset Netting(brilliant) is one of many things to add to immediate needs. how to get the word out and make that happen is the question......


Posted by: Robin Stevens on 30 Dec 04

Quinine, nets.

The real one to worry about, though, would probably be Dengue. Various forms of hepatitis are probably out there as well, because of the latrines and overflow of sewer systems. The last two are the real problem, I think...


Posted by: Taran on 30 Dec 04

I am concerned and wondering about the children who are right now on their own, uncertain if their parents or guidarians are lost, or even worse, killed. I have caught only few segments on television where many are gathered (seemingly hundreds of them) and they seem to be sitting outside. Since I admit I don't know much of the area, here are my concerns as I am doing all I can within my own means out here in New Jersey/New York to help using my humanitarian connections.

Is the weather warm enough for the children to be walking without shoes as I noticed most of them are?

Are the children who may be mentally disabelled or challenged getting additional attention and care considering their position, and if so, who and which organizations, can you list them... also, for those children who may have already been sick or handicapped before the accident, are they being cared for by those who are aware of their conditions already or no...

Also, in terms of the animals...

I have heard only one report of a local zoo, wildlife zoo, and none of the animals were noticed to have been killed. Of course I am thrilled to hear this, however, I am still scared that many are missing along with the humans that are still (and may never be found) do to the pushing of the waves...

Is there one animal or wildlife resource contact you could give for those wanting to see how the animals of the area survived and/or are doing?

Thank you very much.


Posted by: JamieLeigh.Net on 30 Dec 04

Hi, loved this "blog".
But, what is ti "WorldChanging"?

Maybe you can help me. I am trying to find a way to go as a volunteer to india (or some other country) to help the victims of the tsunami. Can you ter me where i can do this?
(i am from portugal and i can't find ways for it here :S )

Well, thank you
;)
Peace


Posted by: Luis Pato on 30 Dec 04

"until we succeed in breeding mosquitoes which are themselves immune to malaria, ending the problem forever."

Sorry, but we're dealing with life - I'd expect malaria to adapt to whatever we do using biological means. Nets - good. (I think.)


Posted by: lugon on 30 Dec 04

JamieLeigh asked if there were zoos that had released or endangered animals because of the tsunami. I've been to Banda Aceh and there is no zoo there, so that this should not be an issue. In fact, most of the towns in the whole region affected do not have zoos. The one report I heard about where animals MIGHT be impacted was a wildlife reserve in Sri Lanka. Rangers there said they, remarkably, found now carcasses of animals at the reserve. Most of the wild animals appeared to "detect" the approaching tsunami and found shelter.


Posted by: Red Ape on 30 Dec 04

A biologist on the radio earlier today said that one of the reasons the wildlife sanctuary in Sri Lanka was less impacted was that it still has extent mangrove swamp and forest, reducing the impact of the waves... I have no idea if this is actually true, but it makes sense to me.


Posted by: Alex Steffen on 30 Dec 04

Interesting about the pesticide impregnated mosquito nets.

They have proved to be unsaleable because covering children in white netting is a cultural taboo evoking death and the coffin.

The Acumen fund does not refer to the Mosquito netting as a success. Instead, it is a cautionary tale about trying to developement without comprehensive local knowledge


Posted by: Zaki Manian on 30 Dec 04

Finally, something tangible from the WHO.


Posted by: Taran on 1 Jan 05



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