World Mosquito Day sensitizes the populace about the many causes of malaria, and its prevention. The day is also dedicated to raising funds to support malaria research and to celebrate the revolutionary achievement of Ronald Ross and other malaria scientists who toe his line.
Ronald Ross it was, who on August 20 1897, made the discovery of the link between female Anopheles mosquito and malaria while serving in India Medical Service.
Ronald Ross later won the Nobel Prize in 1902 for medicine for his groundbreaking work, which laid the foundation for the fight against malaria that runs into decades after, even till today.
Yearly, mosquito-borne diseases kill millions. An estimated 400,000 of these deaths are due to malaria alone. Malaria in pregnancy is still one of the leading causes of stillbirths in Africa – a condition WHO refers to as neglected tragedy.
Malaria is as old as humanity and some have described it as “humanity curse.” Almost half of the world’s population is affected by malaria. In Africa, a child is said to die every two minutes from malaria. Indeed, the losses from malaria and its economic impact is huge.
But all those may soon change, thanks to the malaria vaccine being rolled out into immunization programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. According to BBC, the vaccine took 32 years of research and cost more than $700m.
Beyond the vaccines, exploits in the field of science are also shaping the fight against malaria by modifying mosquitoes into a form with less capacity to transmit malaria.
One of such is gene editing as described here by Bill Gates on gatesnotes.com: The X-shredder – editing mosquito genes – including one that affects whether they turn out male or female – could be an important tool in eradicating malaria.
The prospect of eliminating – or even eradicating the disease – is surer than ever. However, it requires more than a mere statement of commitment.
There have been vaccination programmes in its various forms targeted at other diseases. Even with years of deployment, threats of vaccine hesitancy is real. There are other challenges that also militate against successful implementation of vaccination programmes.
Vaccination against malaria is not immune to these challenges – and all hands must be on deck to forge a joint front against malaria. And the World Mosquito Day provides another opportunity to demonstrate commitment to tackling the disease.
Thus, more than the celebrations, today and beyond, should serve as a time of global reflection; a time to pause and ask whether individuals or government have done enough in the fight against malaria!