When my son was Rael Cheruto’s age, he spent his day like many first graders in the United States: solving the mysteries of addition and subtraction, reveling in building toy trains and winning card games, and navigating the neighborhood social scene. His favorite book was Frog and Toad Together. His biggest challenge and abiding passion, throwing a Frisbee as far as our dog could run.
In rural Kenya, where she lives with her family, Rael spends much of her day clinging to her father’s back as he carries her from place to place. When she was three, Rael contracted malaria and developed neurological complications. Once an active and friendly child, she can no longer walk, communicate, or feed herself.
When I see Rael and her heartbreakingly hopeful father, I can’t help but compare her life to my son’s; her father’s life to my own. One of the great tragedies of our time is that diseases like malaria that barely cross the minds of people in many parts of the world continue to kill and disable millions of others—including Rael.
Complex disease, comprehensive solution
Malaria is a vexingly complex disease, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make progress against it. In fact, we are making progress. The World Health Organization reports that prevention and control measures have led to a drop of more than 25 percent in malaria death rates worldwide since 2000. In Africa, where nine in 10 malaria deaths occur, the death rate in the same period is down by a third.
At PATH, we’re working with our partners on all of these solutions. Recently, you may have seen the latest trial results regarding the most clinically advanced malaria vaccine candidate, a project of the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, GlaxoSmithKline, and our partners. And last week, Kent Campbell, who directs our Malaria Control Program, was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. You can learn more about our work in the video above and on our website.
Our ultimate goal—eliminate malaria—will take more time and hard work. But it is both ambitious and realistic to foresee a future where malaria no longer threatens the health and well-being of millions of families like Rael’s.
No more malaria
When I imagine a world without malaria, girls like Rael are in school, participating in the life of their communities. They’re empowered, in part because they don’t fear disability or death from a disease that infects more than 200 million people every year. It’s a world where, when couples are ready to start a family, they plan how many children to have since they’ll no longer have to worry that malaria will steal their babies.
It’s a world that will be better for all of us, and it’s one I know we can reach.
- Steve Davis is the president and CEO of PATH.