By Simone Oyekan
Simone is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Simone below or take a look at the Student Issue Analysts.

Every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria.
Yet, malaria is a treatable disease.
How do I know?
I’ve had it before.

I was 9 years old. If not for my families’ access to drugs, I may have been 1 of one million children that die each year.

Malaria is caused by an anopheles mosquito bite. The parasite that is transmitted by these mosquitoes multiplies in the liver and infects red blood cells. Symptoms can include a fever, vomiting, weakness and a headache. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria.

It’s easy to see why developed countries have a stake in international development. The more efficient countries such as Nigeria are, the more oil can be obtained. However, when the issue turns to malaria, it’s hard to explain exactly why we should care about malaria. The truth is that malaria can also affect developed economies. It has the potential to lower GDP, increase death mortality rates, lower the workforce and increase government spending in poorer countries. As the world becomes more globalized, one country’s problems will affect the rest of the international community.

Sometimes I believe people see malaria as something unsolvable and begin to accept it. For instance, while I was in Uganda, I contracted a stomach virus. When I told people that I was sick, the first thing people asked was if I had malaria. I had no symptoms whatsoever, but people (even the doctor in the hospital) jumped to the conclusion that I had to have it. For the record, I didn’t.

From the 1920’s to 1940’s, malaria existed in the American south. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention believes that mosquito breeding sites were reduced by controlling water and increasing insecticide applications. The fact that malaria used to exist in the American south tells us that it is like solving a rubix cube. Extremely difficult but not impossible. Malaria is a disease of poverty and reflects the economic status of countries. The regions that are most affected by malaria (Africa and Asia) are often the poorer countries, once access to safe water and GDP increase, so will the elimination of malaria.

Following a conversation with my friend, I also realized what often hinders the youth from making a difference in our communities. We should never think of ourselves as too small or insignificant to make a difference. As if our contribution will make no difference. I had to tell my friend that if little mosquitoes could have such an impact then surely we could as well.

What can we do to help?

I believe our focus should be on prevention and treatment. Prevention can mean insecticide-treated mosquito nets, while treatment can mean increasing access to medication. We can help by raising funds or raising awareness, the choice is ours.

Simone Oyekan recently graduated with an Economics degree from the University of Surrey. Living in several different countries, from Europe to the Americas to Africa, inspired her to want to make a difference in the international community. Previously, she has worked for an NGO and in a Ugandan health center. She is currently a French language student in Paris and is looking forward to obtaining a masters degree in International Affairs. Her hobbies include cooking, reading and skiing.