Conference takes action against malaria

With colorful bed nets and a similarly kid-friendly title, the “Veto the ‘Squito” campaign launched by a Yale Law School-affiliated organization has a serious mission: saving the lives of African children for $10 each.

An international video conference held yesterday and sponsored by the Yale Law School chapter of Americans for Informed Democracy focused on highlighting the inequalities of malaria treatment and steps to combat the disease in the future. The conference featured students from four other U.S. chapters of AID as well as youths from Ecuador, Benin, Burkina Faso and Ghana. The teleconference is part of the nation-wide “Veto the ‘Squito” youth campaign, which has already raised $50,000 for mosquito netting in the last two months.

“We’re building a real network across the country, and the world to end this disease,” AID founder Sean Green LAW ’07 said. “But one of the problems is that this hasn’t become a social issue that people network around, such as with AIDS.”

Green said the campaign plans to buy mosquito netting — a simple method of fighting malaria — for youths in the tropics. Few families can afford the $10 needed per individual for a net to cover themselves at night.

Suzanne O’Malley, a Yale lecturer, said she came out of the teleconference with new insights on the complexities of malaria. She contracted malaria in Kenya more than a decade ago and noted that the medical conditions in Africa have not changed much since then. She said malaria kills 2.5 million African children a year, so the AID campaign will make a big difference in saving lives.

“[The African students] spoke of medications for the disease in north countries, but the need for the medication is in the southern countries,” she said. “They talked about malaria being very common and taken for granted in their countries.”

She said she realized malaria is a multi-faceted challenge.

“The holy grail has for 50 years been to find a vaccine,” O’Malley said.

Speakers at the conference, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, talked about the possibilities of a malaria vaccine being developed in the next 10 years.

But O’Malley said she was skeptical of this optimism.

“It’s always going to be 10 years down the road,” she said. “The reproductive cycle of the parasite makes it so incredibly difficult to interrupt.”

She said the Yale Law organization should be commended for their efforts because each mosquito net will save the life of some child in Africa.

Hammad Ahmed, one of the attendees at the conference, said there needs to be a better allocation of resources, such as bed nets, insecticides and educational outreach, in African countries. The students from Ecuador and the African countries asked many insightful questions, he said.

“They were interested in medical issues, such as malaria prevention and vaccination,” Ahmed said.

Around 80 students and speakers participated in the teleconference.

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