The U.S. government is leading the way in ending malaria-related deaths by 2015, the head of the President's Malaria Initiative said at a youth leadership conference organized by Usher's New Look Foundation.
Timothy Ziemer, U.S. global malaria coordinator, told GlobalAtlanta that the initiative is partnering with Atlanta-based organisations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was initially established to combat the disease.
After a panel discussion on combating malaria at the second annual World Leadership Conference & Awards, where students were honored for their achievements, Mr. Ziemer talked about Atlanta's connection to the global fight against malaria.
Founded in 1946 as the Malaria Control in War Areas agency, the center helped eliminate the disease in the U.S. by the end of the 1940s.
It is now working to implement the President's Malaria Initiative, which works with universities, businesses and foundations in Africa to distribute nets, spray areas with insecticides, reach out to vulnerable groups like pregnant women and treat people with the disease.
For example, along with ExxonMobil Corp. and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the initiative supported the global health organization Population Services International in handing out insecticide-treated nets in Angola.
The organization distributed 120,000 nets last April in two regions in central Angola.
More than 80 percent of deaths from malaria occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and a child dies every 45 seconds from malaria, according to the President's Malaria Initiative.
"The shame of it is we know what causes it, we know how to prevent it; we know how to treat it and yet we're still seeing that malaria has a tremendous impact on the health system as well as the economic climate," said Mr. Ziemer.
The initiative is succeeding in countries, he said, such as Tanzania where under-five mortality dropped by 28 percent between 2005 and 2010 and Senegal where the rate fell by 30 percent between 2005 and 2008.
Although this drop can be attributed to many factors, the initiative credits in part the many malaria interventions in the targeted countries and the corresponding rise of net ownership.
At the World Leadership Conference & Awards, students from around the world learned about global challenges like malaria and how to help in the fight against them.
Sponsored by Coca-Cola Co., General Electric Co., AT&T Inc., Ford Motor Co. and others, the New Look Foundation was founded by R&B star Usher so young people around the world develop their talents and pursue their goals.
Speaking on the importance of partnerships in the fight against malaria, a panel discussion included Mr. Ziemer, American Idol contestant Melinda Doolittle, Miss Black USA Osas Ighodaro, actor Scott Wolf and former Miss Tanzania Flaviana Matata.
Mr. Ziemer is particularly familiar with this topic since the President's Malaria Initiative works with more than 260 businesses, church groups, foundations and nonprofits. He said that the effectiveness of the organization is increased substantially by these partnerships across the globe.
"If we don't partner at every level, then we are not going to achieve this very difficult and challenging, but worthwhile goal," he said, citing the 2015 deadline. Mr. Wolf agreed with Mr. Ziemer, explaining that working with other organizations can help people utilize their talents. "We might want to help, but groups and partnerships help you understand how to use skills and passions."
It is crucial that students at the conference take their own skills and apply them to the cause to end malaria, said Mr. Ziemer.
He added that while the point of the conference is to engage the youth in the anti-malaria initiative, its benefits would be more broad based and would encourage the participants to seek out other challenges as well.
"This crowd is a recruiting pool and that's why I'm really delighted to be here," said Mr. Ziemer.
For more information, visit www.pmi.gov.