As of 2010, about 3.3 billion people worldwide were at risk of contracting malaria. That's nearly half of Earth's population. It is a deadly disease: every year, an average of 216 million people contract malaria, while an estimated 655,000 people die from it - the majority of them children. Today is International Malaria Day, and it's a great opportunity to learn more about the disease and to find out how you can help efforts to curb its spread.
Malaria is a blood disease that is spread among humans by bites from infected mosquitoes. It is carried by at least 20 different variations of mosquitoes around the world, but is particularly dangerous in Africa, where factors ranging from long insect lifespans to the particular habits of local species have left the continent with nearly 90% of the world's malaria deaths.
Because of the specific manner in which it is transmitted, malaria is in many ways a preventable disease: protection from malarial "vectors" - i.e. parasite-carrying mosquitoes, which are mostly active in the hours between sunset and sunrise - can amount to protection from the disease itself. Since young people are most at risk (adults in malaria-endemic areas often develop an immunity against the worst effects of the disease), having children sleep under bed nets lined with insecticide is a highly effective way of reducing infection rates.
But while bed nets are relatively cheap - according to the charity Spread the Net, a single, $10 bed net can protect up to five children for five years - getting them to the people who need them most requires significant money and effort.
One initiative aiming to raise the necessary funds is End Malaria Day, a project involving organizations such as Box of Crayons, The Domino Project and Malaria No More. Together, they have released a book of essays from some of North America's top business writers, and paired up with media entrepreneur Seth Godin to ensure that $20 from every book sold will go to the Malaria No More project.
Here is a video outlining the campaign:
Seth Godin was on the show recently, and he spoke to George about, among other things, the many ways modern media can harness human innovation and enable individuals to have an impact on the world around them :For more information on malaria, you can read the World Health Organization's World Malaria Report 2011.
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