Malaria Awareness Day was designated to be April 25 by President George W. Bush in 2007. In his proclamation, President Bush called on Americans to join in on the goal to eradicate malaria on the African continent. On April 25, 2006, President Bush described Malaria Awareness Day to be a day when “we focus our attention on all who suffer from this terrible disease — especially the millions on the continent of Africa. We remember the millions more who died from this entirely preventable and treatable disease. As a compassionate nation, we are called to spread awareness about malaria — and we’re called to act. That’s what compassionate people do. When they see a problem, they act. And that’s what we’re here to talk about. On this special day, we renew our commitment to lead the world toward an urgent goal, and that is to turn the tide against malaria in Africa, and around the globe.” President Bush also shared with the public the White House’s strategic plan against malaria. This included two new endeavors in Uganda and Madagascar to distribute millions of life saving bed nets with the New York-based nonprofit group Malaria No More.
Leading up to Malaria Awareness Day, many prominent companies, organizations, and celebrities declared initiatives to join the fight against malaria. These included a $3 million “challenge grant” announced by ExxonMobil to match donations dollar by dollar to Malaria No More. This grant was a part of the “Idol Gives Back” episodes of American Idol, which was aired on Malaria Awareness Day. Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber also announced that the league would promote malaria awareness and bed net fundraising promotions in the month of April leading up to Malaria Awareness Day. Actress Ashley Judd, announced the April launch of a new initiative called “5 & Alive,” which will focus on the devastating effects of malaria on children under 5. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America announced their own national campaign called “Malaria Prevention: Deadly Disease. Simple Solution”, which will partner with Malaria No More to approach all 4.7 Million Club members worldwide to ask for $10 bed net donations. Said John Bridgeland, CEO of Malaria No More, said, “In the past few years, Americans have demonstrated their generosity in Katrina and Tsunami relief efforts. Now they’re coming together for another great cause: to end the more than one million deaths a year caused by malaria. April 25th is just the beginning for this emerging movement.”
However, the movement is not without its critics, such as the African economist Dambisa Moyo. She warns that the short term benefits of aid such as mosquito nets can have long term detrimental effects to the sustainability of African economies. When the markets are flooded with foreign nets then this puts African entrepreneurs out of business. She also states that such interventions can disenfranchise citizens from their Governments and that it should the Governments in the driving seat of such initiatives and not foreign organizations.
Other former U.S. Presidents are involved in anti-malaria efforts. Former President Bill Clinton’s Clinton Foundation includes an anti-malaria component that, according to director Inder Singh has distributed anti-malaria drugs to millions in Africa and Asia.
Malaria kills 3,000 children a day and takes nearly 1 million lives every year in Africa. It is a preventable and treatable disease, however, poverty impedes access to treatment and bed nets for prevention.