New York Times’ Malaria Coverage Should Include Red Cross

Sunday’s New York Times published an article entitled “A $10 Mosquito Net Is Making Charity Cool”, which talked about youth involvement in combating malaria. I think Donald G. McNeil, Jr., the author of the article, does an excellent job of talking about contributions by The Gates Foundation and the grassroots fundraising efforts of American youth, including those from students in Brooklyn and Howard University (Washington, DC). However, I think Mr. McNeil’s article does not adequately highlight the work that the American Red Cross has done to contribute to the fight against malaria and what its youth are doing.

Establishment of the Fight Against Malaria
The article states that:

Major donors have focused on malaria since the creation in 2001 of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has paid for 106 million nets. President Bush in 2005 started the President’s Malaria Initiative, which has bought 6 million so far.

In addition to this, it’s also critical to mention that fighting malaria has also been facilitated by its predecessor, the Measles Initiative, which has been able to cut measles death rates in Africa by over 68 percent through “social mobilization”, or bringing vaccines to local communities through a partnership of the UN Foundation, UNICEF, the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and local Red Cross societies in campaign countries.

The effective model of delivering bednets to local communities was started largely through this American Red Cross-led initiative. Also, the American Red Cross uses its International Services programs as a vehicle for delivering malaria bednets, as it did in July 2007 after cyclones in Madagascar.

Youth Involvement
The article also talks about individual youth doing outstanding projects – I was impressed by their efforts and commend Mr. McNeil for identifying them – but another part of the story is youth working with organizations as well. For example, Long Beach, Calif. youth organized a 3-on-3 basketball tournament as volunteers at the Greater Long Beach Chapter. There’s also a vital education piece where American Red Cross have the chance to become peer educators about malaria campaigns in Africa, as they did last year when the National Youth Institute featured a session where youth were told to hang up bednets with no instructions. This showed them that education campaigns in Africa about how to hang up the bednets are as vital as the nets themselves.

I am thankful that malaria fundraising is getting coverage – especially in the New York Times – but that a complete picture of youth and young adult efforts against malaria needs to account for the role that the American Red Cross plays, as a deliverer of vaccines and a place where American youth can learn about and contribute to fighting the bite.

Justin Lam
Washington, DC

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