Like so many parents of middle school-aged girls across the country, my house was filled with excitement this weekend as the newest movie in the Twilight Saga series, "New Moon", hit theaters. As the anticipation was building to a fever pitch, I took refuge at the office -- but found that my work has more to do with vampires than I realized.
Let me clarify: no, I do not do battle with vampires. Rather, I take on a different kind of "creature of the night" -- the anopheles mosquito, which treacherously transmits the malaria parasite from person to person. So as it turns out, mosquitoes and vampires have a lot in common. They both come out at night, they're both bloodsuckers and they can both kill their victims. But there's one important difference: vampires aren't real. Malaria is.
Malaria kills nearly 3,000 children in Africa every single day, but it doesn't have to be this way. We've all heard that garlic and holy water ward off vampires, yet families can likewise defend themselves against malaria with simple tools. Malaria is preventable and treatable, and the world is working to provide access to tools like mosquito nets, safe indoor spraying and effective medicine to help every family in Africa protect themselves from the bite of a malaria-carrying mosquito.
Twilight has helped to make vampires a cultural phenomenon, infecting fans with incredible storytelling and blockbuster films and sweeping the country up in a frenzy of fanged worship. In terms of awareness, vampires definitely have malaria beat. Malaria isn't trendy, it isn't sexy, and it isn't on the cover of every magazine at the newsstand this week. But, in comparison with even the most villainous vampire in the "Twilight Saga", malaria wins one contest: it's definitely scarier.
Malaria No More is working to make malaria deaths as much a part of ancient folklore as tales of the bloodsucking vampire. We're working with our partners around the world to end malaria deaths in Africa by 2015. It's an ambitious goal, but it's achievable when enough people stand together against the disease and refuse to accept a single death from a mosquito bite.
I wish Bella, Edward and their vampire friends the best of luck in all of their Twilight adventures. But the anopheles mosquito should know that we're on the hunt. And we're armed with more than garlic.
To find out more about malaria and Malaria No More, or to donate a $10 mosquito net, please visit MalariaNoMore.org.
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