By Kathy Bushkin Calvin, COO of the UN Foundation
Today, at the closing session of the Clinton Global Initiative, the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign will announce a major commitment to send over 600,000 long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed nets to vulnerable refugee populations living in 27 temporary camps in East Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
This commitment will offer some critical relief to a population already ravaged by war, poverty, and famine and facing down the coming rainy season, when malaria infections skyrocket. Malaria is the largest killer of refugees, who can suffer mortality rates from the disease as high as 25 percent.
As an immediate, easy, and inexpensive way to tackle the disease, bed nets are an ideal remedy for this population in particular and are an indispensable component in the broader fight against malaria. While bed nets can’t fully eradicate malaria, they go a long way toward trying to eliminate malaria deaths in the next generation.
From a broader view, the last few days have been a landmark period in the fight against malaria. This week, the UN Secretary General, standing with Bill Gates and Bono, proposed a ground-breaking comprehensive action plan for getting to the near elimination of malaria deaths by 2015.
Multi-million-dollar commitments from the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Houston-based Marathon Oil followed. Senator Obama made the same commitment at CGI on Thursday, and Senator McCain has expressed the same desire in the past.
Hopefully this wave of support signals that the world has finally begun to realize the devastating effects of the disease. Malaria, long ago eliminated in most of the developed world, still kills a million people a year globally, mostly children and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa. That’s roughly a child every 30 seconds. Moreover, malaria is devastating to African economies — to the tune of billions of dollars each year.
The commitments made over the past few days are a big step in the right direction, but there is so much more to be done. It is estimated that over 300 million nets alone are needed.
Join Nothing But Nets in this effort by visiting www.nothingbutnets.net and giving $10 to send a net and save a life.