Our meeting on Wednesday 17 January 2024 was a face to face meeting with a speaker – Anna Graysmith – from Malaria No More UK, a charity based in the UK and promoting awareness of Malaria in the UK and finding financial support for the eradication of Malaria in the affected countries.
Anna started by asking if any of her audience had personal experience of malaria, either for themselves or through their family, and two members confirmed they had. Malaria, she explained, is caused by a tiny zygote or worm that lives in the gut of the female anopheles mosquito, and is transferred to humans when bitten by an infected female mosquito. The tiny worm works its way through the human’s bloodstream, often ending up in the liver. The zygote is genetically unstable which makes it very difficult to tackle with drugs. A mosquito can become a carrier by biting a human with the zygote in their bloodstream.
Roughly half the global population is at risk from malaria, but when it strikes in a family it is often the small children that get it. That has a devastating effect on the ability of the adults to nurse their children and still hold down a job. In 2022 there were 608,000 deaths from malaria, mostly children under 5 years of age.
There are currently two vaccines in trials with the World Health Organisation, with pilots in three countries. The vaccines are looking good with an effectiveness during some trials of 75%. However, vaccines need other strategies in parallel if they are to succeed, and the club has been a long term support of impregnated bed nets through REMIT (Rotarians Eliminating Malaria in Tanzania). These chemoprophylactic strategies are described in detail on the World Health Organisation’s website, and also the NHS website.
Anna was aware that Rotary only took up Polio Eradication after there was an effective vaccine, and Malaria No More UK is keen to get to the same position so that malaria can be eradicated as successfully as polio (just 12 cases of wild polio virus recorded in the world in 2023).
The talk led to many questions, and was much appreciated by the members, and the Club made a donation towards Malaria No More UK’s funds on the night.