As Peace Corps Volunteers we saw the affect of malaria on development. We saw children and teachers absent from the classroom because of malaria. Think of the amount of money and time that Peace Corps alone spends on malaria prevention for volunteers:  the cost of supplying every volunteer with prophylaxis and insecticide-treated nets; with slide kits and emergency medication for treatment (the good kind); with training (remember how we all had to prick our fingers to practice preparing a slide for testing?); with all-expenses-paid trips to the capitol to be cared for (more or less) by a Peace Corps nurse.

How much does malaria cost Peace Corps in overhead just to keep volunteers healthy? How much more could we have accomplished if that energy could have been diverted to constructive projects in our communities? If our host families and counterparts could have access to these kind of mammoth resources, would it cost as much as the $12 billion a year in GDP that Africa already loses to malaria?

In our modern, global society, a disease that affects almost half of the world, affects us all. Even here in America where we have been malaria free for more than 50 years, malaria affects us. It affects where we invest our business, where we choose to travel for vacation, where we invest aid and effort. For those of us who have friends and family members in malaria-endemic areas, we have to live with the anxiety and helplessness caused by seeing our loved ones suffer.

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(Please explore this link to a short YouTube video I made about malaria–artwork created in Inkscape)

When I was in the Peace Corps, I never had to experience malaria (all those medicines and nets and insect repellents kept me pretty well off). Malaria has struck near to me several times. My sister, a missionary in West Africa, has had malaria multiple times, including when she was pregnant with my niece. Pregnant women are far more likely to contract malaria and also far more likely to die from it. Every time I look at my niece (okay, Skype with my niece) I am grateful that this case of malaria didn’t result in death or miscarriage or brain damage to the baby as happens in so many other cases. My sister has some choice at least in where she lives and works. Other people don’t.

My fiancé is Ghanaian. When he traveled to the capitol for a business venture, he suddenly contracted malaria and passed out in the middle of his work. All of the money he had brought for his expenses went for medicine. Instead of bringing his profits back home with him, he barely made it home at all. His business trip was a total loss, even more than a loss, because of malaria.

Malaria cripples development, and by doing that it holds us all back. We’ve all been inspired by iconic people from different parts of the world, such as Nelson Mandela or Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (or the Black Stars football team of Ghana - Go Black Stars!!). How many other stories and voices have we been deprived of just because of a preventable disease?