One aspect of the ongoing global effort to rid the planet of malaria has been fighting for a slice of the public’s attention. Malaria No More is one organization working to get Americans excited about eradicating the disease (and is based in Seattle – now one of the world’s epicenters of malaria research) by helping launch a new campaign that gives people an innovative, tangible way to help make a difference.
The “Call Your Shot” challenge was launched by basketball star Stephen Curry and backed by a coalition of partners, including the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign, Malaria No More and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The challenge continues the fight to beat malaria by rallying the public to call and make their favorite trick shot, donate at CallYourShot.org, and challenge friends to continue the movement by posting their videos online with the hashtag, #CallYourShot.
“The fight against malaria is really one of the most exciting stories of our time, and a lot of people don’t know about it,” said Susan Byrnes, managing director of strategic communications at Malaria No More, in an interview with Humanosphere. “They’re not aware of the role that the U.S. is playing, and the fact that the U.S. is a global leader in the malaria fight.”
The U.S. is indeed a world leader in providing financial and technical assistance to malaria-endemic countries, having steadily increased federal funding for global health over the last quarter of a decade, this year spending $861 million in malaria control efforts and research activities. Last year, the United States also contributed $1.35 billion to the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, with approximately one-third going toward malaria (32 percent).
In other words, U.S. investment in the malaria fight has contributed enormously to the 60 percent decline in the rate of global malaria deaths since 2000.
Yet there are still many obstacles to the eradication of malaria, which threatens half of the world’s population today. According to Malaria No More, a child dies from malaria every two minutes, and the deadly (yet preventable) disease is one of the biggest killers of young children and pregnant women around the world. Sub-Saharan Africa carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden, suffering 88 percent of malaria infections and 90 percent of malaria deaths worldwide just last year.
Now, the challenge faced by health advocates and organizations is to keep public interest high. Americans care about eradicating malaria, Byrnes said, but because they are not directly impacted by the disease, they often feel detached from control and research efforts.
The perception of malaria being just a developing world problem makes it even more important to keep the disease in the spotlight, to ensure that existing progress doesn’t stagnate and to eradicate the disease once and for all.
“It’s important for governments to continue to fund malaria efforts,” said Byrnes, “and in order to do that, they want to know that people in this country care about eradicating malaria.”