10/08/2007 05:45 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

No Hope, New Hope

Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times tells a profoundly disturbing story about a Cambodian peasant, Nhem Yen, who was living with her family in an area of the Cambodian jungle that was infested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Her oldest daughter, twenty-four and pregnant with her second child, contracted the disease. "There was no money to get medical treatment (effective drugs would have cost less than $10), and so she died a day after giving birth," Kristoff writes. "That left Nhem Yen looking after five children of her own and two grandchildren. The family had one mosquito net that could accommodate about three people. So every night, she agonized over which of the children to put under the net and which to leave out. 'It's very hard to choose,' Nhem Yen told me. 'But we have no money to buy another mosquito net. We have no choice.'"

For 100 years, malaria was a "no hope" story -- and, indeed, it still remains the leading cause of death among young children in parts of Asia and throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, causing over one million preventable deaths per year. But in a remarkable turn-around, millions of rural peasants in Africa and Asia will no longer face Nhem Yen's awful choice of which children to protect from malaria. In scenes reminiscent of the tremendous humanitarian response to the tsunami in Thailand, a vast army of volunteers and health professionals is being deployed to distribute millions of insecticide-treated mosquito nets throughout some of the most impoverished areas of the world. At a cost of $10 each, the insecticide-treated bed nets kill or incapacitate malaria-carrying mosquitoes that are active primarily at night.

Later this month, U.S. Malaria Initiative Coordinator Admiral Tim Ziemer will lead a massive week-long, mosquito net distribution campaign in Madagascar to protect children under the age of five. Malaria is endemic to 90 percent of Madagascar, where it is the leading cause of death among young children. To learn more about how you and your organization can directly participate in the campaign to wipe out malaria, visit