Last week, Uganda celebrated 50 years of independence from British rule. However, Uganda’s Minister of Health, Christine Ondoa, missed the nationwide celebration so that she could travel to New York City to spread the word about malaria.
While malaria rates drop globally, it continues thrive in Uganda. There, the curable disease is the leading cause of death. Ondoa takes the morbidity to heart. Before being appointed health minister in May 2011, she cared for hundreds of children stricken with the disease as the sole physician at a hospital in Northern Uganda.
Powerful treatments and preventative measures for malaria exist, but they are out of reach for many. Ondoa spoke with Nature about her plan to organize a concerted, international effort to change that.
What is your malaria strategy?
In 2008, the non-profit organization Pilgrim Africa achieved a 92% decrease in the incidence of malaria in a small pilot program with a multi-pronged approach. They screened everyone in the village for malaria parasites and treated those who tested positive; they gave malaria prophylaxis treatments to all pregnant women; they handed out bed nets; and they sprayed houses with insecticide.
Most regions currently cannot afford to do all of these things simultaneously, but we hope to raise funds and better coordinate independent efforts so that we can cover at least 80% of Uganda.
We’ll need the equivalent of US$2 billion over five years. If we can achieve this, we will save money in the long-term because healthy adults will be able to work, and healthy children will be able to attend school.