As the Special Envoy for Malaria, I have witnessed and heard too many tragedies of parents in sub-Saharan Africa who woke in the night, their child delirious and slipping into a malaria coma. Minutes and hours passed as they desperately tried to reach the treatment that would save their child. I recall the story of a four-year old girl who went overnight from a bubbly little sister chasing after her big siblings to a girl who has difficulty walking and functioning mentally, an all-too common result of severe cerebral malaria. We can imagine the sense of urgency her parents felt trying to access treatment, knowing that with every minute that slipped away, so too did their daughter. And all because of a preventable mosquito bite.
It's time for us to stop imagining that sense of urgency. We need to act. The clock is ticking for approximately 7 million children who will die this year from almost entirely preventable causes-- mainly pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea. By agreeing to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by December 31, 2015, the world committed to saving at least 4.4 million of those lives in the next 1,000 days. Just 1,000 days to help save the lives of 19,000 children under five who die every day.
Skeptics and perhaps even realists would pose an obvious question: What can one person actually do to make a difference in just 1,000 days?
Here is one way.
Share your story. Inspire the world to action. Tell us what you or someone you know has done to help fight the good fight, leading the way for others to follow. We can intellectualize these problems, do cost benefit analyses of various supply chain models, and appeal to policy makers with our strong data and studies. But when people write a check to support organizations, or politicians vote to increase global health spending, it is the faces behind those numbers that motivate them and truly bring change. By sharing these stories in this column, I'll show you how we all can help.
Many of you have witnessed first hand the devastating consequences of malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia, or AIDS. You know mothers who have almost died in childbirth or lost children from an illness that could have been prevented with a $0.60 treatment of amoxicillin. You've witnessed the birth of a healthy child thanks to the care of a trained, skilled birth attendant. You've seen what works and what can be possible in just 1,000 days. These are the stories we need to hear--stories of the challenges facing our big push to meet the health MDGs and the successes already out there.
That's why we will be using this space to give at least one $1000 award each time the contest runs to readers who will submit their stories from the field. Your stories will become the basis for future posts here and be collected and disseminated to amplify the voices behind the statistics. These stories will not only inspire us all to take action, but serve as powerful tools as we advocate for the resources and political commitment necessary to save 4.4 million lives by December 31, 2015.
Every month we run the contest, we will award $1000 to at least one winner, announcing those winners here and publishing the full stories on a dedicated site. A panel of judges from the global health community will help make the selections. All we ask is that these stories are true and under 3500 words. Accompanying videos or photos are welcome. We also know that story telling is often best as a collaborative effort, so we encourage readers to post their stories and respond to one another in the comments section here. To be considered for the cash prize though, in addition to your comments being included here, all submissions need to be posted through malariaenvoy.com/competition
Our first deadline is Monday, April 22nd so act quickly. The clock is ticking...