Mark is Permanent Secretary, Department for International Development:
It was the long weekend for Easter, back in 2000 when my wife Julia and I took our young family – Dominic, then four, Jonathan two and Helena, just three months old, from our home in Nairobi to Mombasa for a short holiday. We had a wonderful time padding along the beach and splashing in the surf.
Unfortunately, however, Helena contracted a big dose of malaria. Our wonderful Kenyan nanny, Mary, spotted she was running a fever a few days after we got back to Nairobi, and zipped her down to Gertrude’s Garden, the famous children’s hospital close by. Helena was treated with malaria medication – an early artemisinin therapy. Her case attracted the interest of the medical staff because her parasite count was apparently high enough to put an adult in a coma. Luckily, Helena made a rapid and full recovery and is now a bright, boisterous 12 year old with a black belt in martial arts and a point of view.
her parasite count was apparently high enough to put an adult in a coma
This personal encounter with the threat of malaria certainly reinforced my own interest in ensuring UK aid from the UK Government does as much as possible to tackle this deadly but preventable disease. In Burma we are funding health workers and volunteers to treat 100,000 cases of malaria with ‘Artemisinin Combination Therapies’ in high risk areas. We have provided technical support to help launch an unprecedented universal mosquito net campaign in Nigeria to distribute 63 million nets to 30 million households. And, in Kenya where I had my own close encounter with this disease, we have supplied over 21 million insecticide treated mosquito nets over the last 10 years which has contributed to averting an estimated 29 million cases of malaria and 189,000 deaths, mostly children.
Malaria continues to kill hundreds of thousands of people each year. Every single one of these deaths is preventable. With new threats looming, such as emerging resistance to artimisinin in some countries, continued investment and innovation to tackle malaria is vital to ensure the gains that have been made in tackling this disease so far are sustained.
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