U.S. Africa Command joined together with several other U.S. governmental organizations to raise awareness about the problem of malaria around the world, but most specifically on the African continent. The event, a live web chat, took place on Thursday, April 25 – World Malaria Day.
Questions were submitted from around the world and answered by representatives from U.S. Africa Command’s Medical Division (J47) who have years of experience in combating tropical diseases such as malaria.
“Awareness can spark grass-roots actions and initiatives, which will creatively address the challenges of malaria. If the challenges are reduced, we can improve the overall wellness, stability and security of Africa,” said Major Randi Hamm, one of two medical experts who answered questions online during the five hour long live web chat.
While malaria is a worldwide problem, with an estimated 660,000 deaths annually, it is extremely deadly in Africa. According to the World Health Organization’s latest estimates, most deaths occur among children living in Africa where a child dies every minute from malaria. In the U.S., more than 1,500 cases of malaria are diagnosed each year. Travelers coming from areas without malaria often have no immunity and are very vulnerable to the disease. Prevention is possible if you first visit your primary care physician.
“African militaries experience the same disease problems when they deploy to other regions, or even when they train in various parts of their own countries,” said Major Robert Holmes who was also online answering questions. But the key to beating malaria is more than just bed-net distribution and promoting indoor residual spraying. “You have to tackle the entire population, not just moms and kids,”
Joining U.S. Africa Command in this effort to promote the impact of malaria was USAID, Department of State (DoS) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), each hosting their own web chats throughout the day. AFN aired spots on radio and television promoting the opportunity for the public to ask their malaria questions live via Facebook and Twitter.
“I think malaria is one health problem in Africa that can be beat by all communities, with U.S. Africa Command, our African partners and other governmental and non-governmental agencies working together,” said Hamm. “Through our communities' synchronization of awareness efforts and continued investments, we support our African partners who are able to develop and implement solutions to their malaria challenges.“
By the end of the day, U.S. Africa Command’s medical team answered more than 60 questions on Facebook while participating in a day long open dialogue on Twitter that involved hundreds of tweets.
“The response was more robust than I had expected. I didn’t anticipate the breadth of questions folks might have. It was very mentally engaging and I’m glad together we could help raise awareness about this disease,” concluded Holmes.
World Health Organization – Malaria Fact Sheet: