Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I feel such an urgency today in my work. I know reading this blog that my talking about malaria is probably similar for you to beating a dead horse, but I have come to re-realize recently how important this is. I was re-reading this article by National Geographic, and it put into perspective again the enemy I am up against.
It talks about how some scientists think one in every two people in history have died of malaria. How there are parts of Zambia where for every 1000 kids, there is 1335 cases of malaria. That was not a typo, it means kids get malaria multiple times. The virus is smarter than we are in a lot of ways, and the ultimate answer for eradication will likely have to be a vaccine.

So, here I am in snowy inner-city Chicago in a heated office, surrounded by a thriving metropolis of people--most of whom don’t know anyone who has had malaria and might not even know what malaria is, or that it has killed more people than Spanish influenza, the plague, scarlet fever, measles, and polio. Combined. And I think about the accident of geography. How I was born here, ate a nutritious breakfast this morning, drove to work today, and have never had a family member suffer from malaria (other than myself, and I got it because I flew 7500 miles away from where I grew up). How I arrive at work every morning and think about Godlisten, Patrick, Agnes, and others who live by accident, coincidence, or fate in a place where they can suffer from cerebral malaria and die any day of the week. And that would be considered sad, but normal.

And the vast majority of people here are largely silent. This is not a guilt trip, it is just an interesting fact I think about a lot. That things that do not affect me or those I care about I simply do not pay attention to. If I did not have a relative currently suffering from Alzheimers, I probably would not want to give money for research for the disease, and I would have loved the movie The Notebook. But instead I do give money, and the movie makes me feel horrible and sad. Unfortunately for my family at this time there is not a vaccine for Alzheimers, and it is not treatable and preventable. But malaria is treatable and preventable. And vaccines are in the works. And 1 million people die every year from malaria. Kids. Pregnant women. People with futures.

That is why I get up every morning, drive to work when I am tired or it is snowy or I just don't want to, and talk about malaria and the importance of interfaith work in the solution with everyone I talk to, even if they don’t want to hear it. Because I am fighting. One of the most formidable foes in the history of health in the world. Because my voice has an impact, and I told my friends in Africa that I would say something, and that this disease would not always be a reality for them.

That is what I am thinking about today. The accident of geography and the urgency of acting now.

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