Malaria is one of the 21st century’s great plagues. It is responsible for anywhere from 1 to 3 million deaths per year, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Efforts to eradicate the disease are mounting: in the year 2000, just 3% of children under 5, in sub-Saharan Africa, slept with mosquito nets; by 2008, that figure had risen to 56%. Aid groups now project that aggressive preventive measures can protect 100% of the population by the end of 2010 and reduce the number of deaths to near zero by 2015.
Doing so requires an aggressive and coordinated effort by governments across the region, in concert with world health experts, the UN’s WHO, aid organizations and local communities. Malaria, originally named “the bad air” because it was thought to be airborne, is actually a water and blood-borne disease, transmitted by a particular variety of mosquito. The scarcity of safe drinking water across much of the region leads to ill-advised practices like leaving whatever standing water one can find at hand for human consumption.