Today is the World’s Poor Day. Oh, sorry, I mean World Malaria Day.
There’s nothing – no war, no geopolitical area, no language, no country club, no store or slum or club or crime gathering of persons that so starkly defines poverty as malaria. It’s easily cured and if cured often and widely enough, it’s effectively controlled. That’s why so much attention is given it: it’s something easily done, which isn’t.
I’ve had malaria twice, my wife once. You can’t work as long as we’ve worked in Africa or many parts of Asia and not expect to get malaria. Prophylactics work well but using prophylactics for prolonged periods of time is worse than getting and curing the disease a few times.
It’s easily self-diagnosed. Pills in the right dosage cure it within a few days. It’s easier to manage than a host of modern chronic diseases from ticks or plants or sick neighbors. The episodes are shorter than your season’s cold and often less severe than flu.
That’s for an adult; it’s more difficult as many diseases are for children, because calculating the dosage of the medicine gets tricky especially when children vary so widely in their uniform weights and health. Usually a baby sick with malaria has a lot of other diseases at the same time.
So you see how this defines the poor, especially massive collections of the poor concentrated in Africa’s slums. And like most things in poverty, it’s exponential. More malaria creates more poverty creates more malaria.
And this is a terrible little secret that rich people don’t want to know. One of the reasons malaria outcomes are improved in the last decade is because of the efforts that America and much of the western world has been picking outside of cures alone: more health workers, more slum cleanups and the like. And when this becomes known, as it did in Obama’s malaria initiatives, rich powers like Congress ended them.
My take on this meanness is that those getting richer don’t want any competition.
The disease is fascinating. Like many modern parasitic and viral diseases today we are experiencing the ultimate biological battle: man vs. pathogen. The two protagonists in this battle have honed their skills for millions of years of evolution, and they’ve both achieved deadly capabilities.
The battle favors the disease, not man, because man is too vain and arrogant to accept his community as savior rather than himself alone.
Malaria research has concentrated on western world quick fixes: a vaccine or methods to kill all the mosquitoes. Either would do the trick, and to a certain extent they are. Malaria deaths are down substantially over the last decade principally because of treated bed nets. Today WHO begins still another grand test in sub-Saharan Africa of a vaccine first designed in 1987.
Individual bed nets are cheap, fairly easily distributed and easy to use almost anywhere. A vaccine, of course, would be even better. But the depths of poverty that so much of the world lives in is capable even of scuttling these measures, even if each achieves their potential.
Malaria was a world-wide killer for most of human history. It effected the outcomes of major battles in America’s revolutionary and civil wars. It discouraged urban growth in America for almost a century.
America and other developed parts of the world got control of malaria essentially by using very toxic pesticides like DDT, and discovered that in the meanwhile they were also eradicating a lot of other things like bald eagles and perch, and likely causing future human health problems as well.
So the powerful western world has forbidden the weakened poor from using DDT and other strong pesticides.
So the battle against malaria is a rich man’s attempt to cure a poor man’s disease. How noble and charitable that seems. Just don’t jeopardize that rich man’s own situation too much.
That’s the simpler way.