01/13/2011 03:43 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What is the Cause for Africa's $12 Billion Annual Loss?

Here is a surprising answer to the question of what costs Africa $12 billion a year in economic loss. Malaria. Every 45 seconds a child in Africa dies from malaria.


In the United States we might think that malaria is similar to many other diseases -- it is preventable and treatable. So why does it contribute to so many deaths and costs Africa billions of dollars? Through my work with Just Like My Child I am painfully and sometimes my staff is personally aware of the affects of malaria and I assume everyone knows what we know.

I was recently asked the question of why Africa has one of the highest rates of malaria-related deaths. Why there and not here? What makes the U.S. and other areas less susceptible? That is when I realized sometimes I take for granted the education I have received through my work in Uganda.

Malaria is typically found in warmer regions of the world such as tropical countries with consistently higher temperatures. Therefore many areas in sub-Saharan Africa are ideal climates for malaria-carrying mosquito. So you might think that tropical parts of the U.S. would have the same problems. The fact is that states like Florida did suffer from high rates of malaria. However, the U.S. government made a concerted effort to eliminate malaria through spraying of DDT in the 1950s. Environmentalists argued against DDT, but no one can argue against saving the lives of millions of children. Many experts would agree that malaria could be drastically reduced in sub-Saharan Africa through focused political will and financial commitment on the part of indigenous and international governments.

Another reason why Africa suffers more than most areas from malaria is a result of its vicious cycle of poverty. If you start with an impoverished developing country and add a deadly disease that is easily transmittable from insect to human with medical aid miles away, you are destined to see a struggle not likely found in other countries.

Malaria is a drain on the already impoverished communities of many countries in Africa. The more often a family suffers from malaria the more a parent has to choose taking care of the child over working. The less money they make, the fewer the opportunity to get access to preventive medicine and education in very rural areas.

The largest population of children in Uganda and many adults cannot make it to the hospital to obtain treatment. In many cases, the drugs will not find their way to the most rural areas without additional resources for doing so. To date, insecticide-treated mosquito nets, early detection, and dispensing of treatment within the village setting are the most inexpensive and more widely available means for protecting a child, improving a family and providing opportunities to entire communities.

Through various efforts and partnerships, we are constantly improving the means and methods for reaching the children most susceptible to severe malaria illness and death. Thankfully through improved education about prevention and distribution for protective nets we are making progress. According to a recent report by the World Health Organization, 578 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have been protected by mosquito nets in just the last two years.

If you want to learn more about how you can help get more nets and education distributed, please contact me directly.

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