How to fight malaria – Kenya’s example

August 17, 2007

Kenya has cut malaria by nearly half. Without further comment from me, here’s the news story from Gulf Times, Doha, Qatar, and below that, from a few other sources:

Kenya nearly halves child deaths from malaria

Published: Friday, 17 August, 2007, 01:27 AM Doha Time

NAIROBI: Kenya announced yesterday that it almost halved malaria deaths among small children by using insecticidal nets (INTs), spurring the World Health Organisation (WHO) to advocate free nets for all as it tackles Africa’s deadliest disease.

Health Minister Charity Ngilu said distribution of 13.4mn INTs over the past five years among children and pregnant women had helped curtail infections, a key success against a disease threatening 40% of the world’s population.

“Childhood deaths have been reduced by 44% in high-risk districts, in-patient malaria cases and deaths are falling (and) there are reduced cases at the community level,” she said in a statement.

“For every 1,000 treated nets used, seven children who might have died of malaria are saved.”

Malaria kills 34,000 children under the age of five each year in Kenya, and threatens the lives of more than 25mn of its population of 34mn people, the ministry said.

Children sleeping under INTs in malaria risk areas are 44% less likely to die than those who are not, according to a survey carried out in four districts representing the country’s epidemiological pattern.

The government has distributed 12mn doses of artemisinin-based therapy (ACT), the latest surefire anti-malaria drug cocktail to replace the mono-therapies that had developed resistance.

In addition, some 824,600 houses in 16 epidemic-prone districts underwent indoor spraying this year.
The government and donors spent 4.7bn shillings ($70.2mn) for the campaign, yet the funds were not enough.

Ngilu said the government would freely provide 2mn treated nets annually to ward off mosquitoes at night when they are active, calling on donors to boost the blanket distribution.

“The impact we have seen and the lessons we have learnt through massively distributing INTs, rather than selectively marketing and selling them, will not only benefit Kenya’s children but all Africa’s children,” she said.

In a statement, the WHO said it had abandoned its earlier guideline of targeting only vulnerable groups – under fives and pregnant women – in favour of “making their protection immediate while achieving full coverage”.

“Recent studies have shown that by expanding the use of these nets to all people in targeted areas, increased coverage and enhanced protection can be achieved while protecting all community members.”

WHO chief Margaret Chan said that Kenya’s success “serves as a model that should be replicated throughout ‘malarious’ countries in Africa.”

“This data from Kenya ends the debate about how to deliver the long-lasting nets. No longer should the safety or well-being of your family be based upon whether you are rich or poor,” said WHO’s Global Malaria Programme director Arata Kochi.

Chan and Kochi were deriding the “social marketing” model widely backed by donors of distributing INTs by selling them at subsidised rates, even to vulnerable groups, and raising awareness of their importance.

Although supporting anti-malaria campaigns, public health watchers have chided British and US foreign development agencies for pushing for social marketing in the world’s poorest continent.

The WHO launched a global programme in 1955 to eradicate the disease that has frustrated attempts to create a vaccine owing to its constant mutations.

Using dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT), a powerful insecticide, and the drug chroloquine, the organisation managed to eradicated the disease in the West by the 1960s.

But the programme never got off the ground in the humid and low-lying tropics in sub-Saharan Africa where the disease persisted.

By 1969, the programme collapsed as financing withered in the face of rising poverty, political upheavals and surging opposition to DDT for misuse, not by anti-malaria campaigners, but farmers.

But Kochi said the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants allowed the use of DDT in endemic countries for “public health only” and Uganda and Malawi were the only African nations keen on the chemical.

Malaria affects more than 1bn people worldwide and kills 1mn – mainly under age five – every year, the vast majority in sub-Saharan Africa. – AFP (Agence France Press) Read the rest of this entry »


Typewriter of the moment: Scottish poet Edwin Morgan

August 17, 2007

A poet's typewriter; Scottish poet Edwin Morgan

From the Learning and Teaching Scotland site:

“Edwin Morgan has written hundreds of poems and translations on countless subjects and in a dizzying variety of forms and styles from Glasgow Sonnets to Science Fiction, opera libretto to Concrete poetry, live performance with jazz saxophonist Tommy Smith to the Instamatic poems.

“Edwin is widely acclaimed as Scotland’s greatest living poet. In 2004 the title of ‘Scots Makar’ was formally bestowed on Edwin effectively creating the first ‘Poet Laureate’ of Scotland.

“Literacy and Numeracy Scotland is developing a new Edwin Morgan resource for schools. The resource will feature video clips of Liz Lochhead and Edwin in conversation about his life, inspirations and poetry, as well as audio performances of 27 of Edwin’s poems with accompanying teaching ideas and interactives.”

See and hear Edwin Morgan’s poems here.

Photo from Learning and Teaching Scotland


DDT poisoning at the Wall Street Journal

August 17, 2007

The Wall Street Journals editorial page continues to exhibit signs of hysteria that can only be described as DDT poisoning. DDT has poisoned their view of what to do about malaria. (The article is now available by paid subscription.)

Malaria is a nasty disease that kills more than a million people every year. It is particularly brutal in attacking infants and pregnant women.

Malaria continues to rage because western nations with the resources to fight the disease spent their money on other things in the past 40 years, because the nations most affected lack the governmental adequacy or financial resources and willpower to mount effective campaigns against the disease, but mostly because malaria is a tough disease to fight.

Malaria is spread by several different species of mosquito, some of which have habits or constitutions which make mosquito eradication programs much less effective. Human malaria is really four different parasites, some of which have acquired resistance to the drugs used to fight it. The HIV/AIDS epidemics in tropical nations have not helped matters: What used to be minor cases of malaria now kill thousands who have compromised immune systems because of HIV/AIDS.

Hospitals in far too many nations are overwhelmed with malaria patients, and unable to provide care for many who could be saved. Most of those who die every year could live, with better distribution of health care, and with better prevention.

A few people have been afflicted with what can only be described as a different problem: DDT poisoning. Their views of malaria and what we need to do to fight the disease are poisoned by their anti-science political views. For at least five years there has been a nasty, persistent campaign to impugn “environmentalists” and Rachel Carson, claiming that DDT is the answer to all the world’s malaria woes. Though DDT has been available to fight malaria since 1946, these people complain that bans on spraying crops have discouraged the use of DDT against malaria, fatally.

Below the fold I’ll fisk the short piece from yesterday’s WSJ. It’s difficult to keep ahead of hoaxers, though — today they’ve got another call for DDT use, this time to fight West Nile Virus. Ironically, West Nile is most deadly against several species of bird, some of which are acutely subject to death by DDT.

Read the rest of this entry »


Phrases I wish I’d written

August 17, 2007

Some people have a flair for writing. P. Z. Myers is one of those, though his flair may be wasted a bit because he’s a practicing, teaching biologist (there probably is something to the oft-observed fact that so many great writers are scientists in their first professions, including people like Arthur Conan Doyle, Oliver Sacks, and Hans Zinsser).

Myers wrote this today, and I just wanted to memorialize it, so you, too, can admire the craft and skill that went into it:

If you want to take a look at one of the sources of creationist thought, the workshop where the red-hot anvil of pseudoscience and the inflexible hammer of theology are used to forge the balloon animals of creationism, The Journal of Creation (formerly the Creation ex nihilo Technical Journal) is now online . . .

“The workshop where the red-hot anvil of pseudoscience and the inflexible hammer of theology are used to forge the balloon animals of creationism.”

In just a few words, he captures the essence of the thing so perfectly!

File it under “Quotes that Should Be Famous.”


Texas couple gets $80,000 for Bush’s anti-protestor errors

August 17, 2007

Remember the two people kicked out of President Bush’s Independence Day speech in West Virginia for wearing protest t-shirts in 2004? Nicole and Jeffery Rank, now of Corpus Christi, Texas, were charged with trespassing.

But they were invited to attend the speech.

According to an Associated Press story via MSNBC, a judge dismissed the trespassing charge. The couple sued Bush for violating their First Amendment rights. Bush’s lawyers settled the case, agreeing to pay the couple $80,000.

“This settlement is a real victory not only for our clients but for the First Amendment,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU of West Virginia. “As a result of the Ranks’ courageous stand, public officials will think twice before they eject peaceful protesters from public events for exercising their right to dissent.”

In the course of the suit it was discovered that the official advance manual for the Bush White House urged removing dissenters from speech audiences, so the original claims that the action was just overzealous local officials was refuted. One wonders if the advance manual has been changed.

When asked if are glad they decided stand up for their beliefs, both answered “absolutely” without hesitation.

“We have thoroughly not enjoyed our 15 minutes [of fame]. It’s cost us personally and professionally,” Jeff Rank said. “The thing that we’re fighting for, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, is just too important to this country to lay down on something like this.”

The First Amendment may have been wounded, but it’s still alive.

Other resources:

Tip of the old scrub brush to blueollie.


Respect for our soldiers, respect for our flag

August 17, 2007

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm issued an executive order that flags across Michigan would be flown at half-staff to honor Michigan soldiers who die in service to the nation in Afghanistan and Iraq. In order to make the order work, her office issues a press release designating the day, and the governor’s website makes note, too. I get an e-mail notification; you may sign up for e-mails at the governor’s website.

Are other states making it as easy to know when to fly flags at half-staff?

Here is Gov. Granholm’s latest press release, on Friday, August 17, 2007:

Flags to be Flown Half-Staff Friday for Army Private First Class Jordan E. Goode

LANSING – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today ordered United States flags throughout the state of Michigan and on Michigan waters lowered for one day on Tuesday, August 21, 2007, in honor of Army Private First Class Jordan E. Goode, of Kalamazoo, who died August 11 while on active duty in Afghanistan. Flags should return to full-staff on Wednesday, August 22.

Pfc. Goode, age 21, died in Zormont, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Under Section 7 of Chapter 1 of Title 4 of the United States Code, 4 USC 7, Governor Granholm, in December 2003, issued a proclamation requiring United States flags lowered to half-staff throughout the state of Michigan and on Michigan waters to honor Michigan servicemen and servicewomen killed in the line of duty. Procedures for flag lowering were detailed by Governor Granholm in Executive Order 2006-10.

When flown at half-staff or half-mast, the United States flag should be hoisted first to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff or half-mast position. The flag should again be raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.

When a member of the armed services from Michigan is killed in action, the governor will issue a press release with information about the individual(s) and the day that has been designated for flags to be lowered in his or her honor. The information will also be posted on Governor Granholm’s website at www.michigan.gov/gov in the section titled “Spotlight.”

# # #

Our condolences go out to the family of Pvt. Jordan Goode.

And our compliments for helping people with flag etiquette go to Gov. Granholm.


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