So announced Bill Gates at the recent Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in Long Beach, California. He jokingly pointed out that “baldness is a terrible thing and rich men are afflicted. That is why the priority has been set. The market does not drive scientists, thinkers or governments to do the right things. Only by paying attention and making people care can we make as much progress as we need to.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation lists malaria prevention as one of its main causes, funding an anti-malaria vaccine that is still in development. Besides a vaccine, simple protective gear such as insect nets would make a tremendous difference in the lives of those most vulnerable to malaria in Africa and Asia.
However malaria still thrives as a plague of the poor. While there is no vaccine, there are pills to help prevent malaria, but are usually only available to travelers from wealthier nations. Treatment for malaria is often too expensive for the poor, and their bodies can often develop a resistance to it. Meanwhile, about 2.7 million people die from the disease each year, the vast majority being children.
Last week Australian researchers announced they had discovered a new way to treat malaria by deactivating an enzyme that parasites use to feed on red blood cells. While this is great news, the question of accessiblity to the poor, and most affected, still remains. This is a question for those in power, namely governments and pharmeceutical companies, who will somehow need to put aside their desire for profit in the name of humanity and social justice.
Besides Gates, Bill Clinton and his Clinton Foundation have also joined the fight against malaria. Show your support in their fight to make treatment more accessible to the poor by adding your signature to the petition.