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The sixth millenium development goal embraces the optimistic hope to first “halt and then begin to reverse” the spread and incidence of certain major diseases such as HIV/AIDs, malaria, and tuberculosis by the year 2015. With three years left for this lofty, yet remarkable attempt at world change, there is still much to be done, more than can easily fit within the remaining amount of time. However, despite the still evident need, one can note that tangible and “computable” progress has indeed been made. These small, yet successful targets give hope that perhaps the entire goal, while unrealistic in nature, has not been in vain.

In my research of this sixth goal, I was most captivated by the sheer simplicity of the plague of malaria amidst the list of infectious diseases– not intending to demote its importance or its debilitating plight. Its cause is so uncomplicated, yet destructive: a single bite from a mosquito can lead to a person’s demise in less than 24 hours, claiming over 800,000 lives each year. And not just any mosquito; according to the World Health Organization, only female mosquitoes of the Anopheles genus can transmit this illness. And to be even more specific, these mosquitoes must be located near a consistent water source or breeding ground and only attack at night.

Despite these great odds, every 30 seconds, a child dies in sub-Saharan Africa from a malaria infection caused by the bite of a mosquito. Even though the facts lead to an assumed “rarity” of this disease, over half the world’s population is at risk to contract malaria, especially considering its presence in over 106 countries.

Malaria, unlike HIV/AIDs, is not transmissible through human touch or sexual contact. Unfortunately, this means that some of its prevention is out of one’s control. No matter how careful one may be, a infected mosquito may still find its way into one’s living environment, putting him or her at great risk. The preventions are therefore based on monetary provisions in supplying insecticidal nets and insect repellants to those living in areas at risk.

And while there are anti-malarial meds available, these temporary treatments are expensive and are not recommended for pregnant and nursing women and children, the main population at risk. There is also an unfortunate growing resistance to anti-malarial drugs that make this less of an effective option. While no vaccine currently exists, clinical trials are currently being performed in seven African countries; the results are expected by 2014, one year before the goal’s fast-approaching deadline.

It may seem hopeless at first, but the need is definitely being met and the goal itself is causing both action and change. Deaths related to Malaria have reduced by 20% worldwide. And organizations have grabbed hold of the goal for themselves.

One in particular that caught my eye, “Roll Back Malaria,” is noting that progress, while fragile and at times inconsistent, will lead us one day to a ‘malaria-free world,’ the essence of their campaign. According to their website, for every $1000 donated, 380 children are protected from the threat of malaria. I appreciated their realistic approach to the goal, finding tangible ways to help change the fate of many. They provide a list of simple ways for people to get involved:

  • $10 will purchase a LLIN (Long Lasting Insecticide-treated Net). And each LLIN can protect two people at night when they are most at risk. Over time, it is also found that these LLIN’s are breaking down mosquito populations, helping to protect those who do not have such protection.
  • Major research and development initiatives have been adopted to provide anti-malarial meds for only $2 per dosage.
  • And besides financial contributions, visitors are encouraged to learn more about malaria, spread awareness to others, and even talk to their employees about joining the “roll back malaria” movement in making this MDG#6 a reality.

I think it is tangible goals such as these that entice people to get involved and become a part of something bigger than themselves. In some respects, I believe that we selfish individuals need to be able to say “I purchased a bed net and saved two children,” in order to feel truly influential. As I look toward creating successful information design, I believe that in order to connect with the general public about such issues at hand, one must be very blunt, straightforward, and most all, realistic. If the audience cannot hold onto one distinct conclusion and call-to-action, the entire collection of data will be pointlessly fleeting and sadly momentary.

Overall, the hard facts are there. Malaria, according to the United Nations Fact Sheet, kills a child in the world every 45 seconds. And ninety percent of these deaths occur in sub-Sahara Africa, a climate that serves as a breeding ground for infected mosquitoes.

Yet despite these “hard” facts, progress has been made likewise. In 2004, only 30 million insecticidal nets were distributed to at risk populations. However, in 2009, the yearly production rose to 150 million due to increased funding and a greater budget. Because of this, 71% of target households have been given tangible protection from malaria. Therefore, while the MDG #6 has not yet been met, lives have been saved, and a specific plan has been set into action, one that hopefully bring us closer to the end goal in time.