In 2009, as many of you know, I spent 7 months in Senegal, working for the NGO Tostan. During my stay, I lived with a little girl named Fatou. She was the daughter of our guard, Daouda, but she was an integral part of our household, filling its walls with laughter. Some nights she slept inside, but she prefered to sleep outside in the evening, while her dad sat chatting with friends. In early November she didn't seem herself; she was slow, less animated. I left for a week, and when I came back I was crushed to learn that she had succumbed to yellow fever. She had been diagnosed too late, and the sickness had overcome her small body.
On May 27 and 28, I plan to take part in a competitive sports challenge in the South of France with people from around the world. Events include a biathlon, tandem bike obstacle course, mountain orientation race, pétanque, bike and run, and a village orientation course. The sports challenge, called the JCI Challenge, will raise money to help the world reach UN Millennium Development Goal #6 and eradicate malaria.
The most frustrating thing about Fatou's death was that it could have been prevented. Those of us in developing countries are lucky enough to get vaccinated against yellow fever before traveling to countries where it is a danger. We take anti-malarial drugs, and sleep under bednets. Fatou was not vaccinated, and wasn't taking any anti-malarial drugs. But she did have access to a bednet. And while bednets do not eliminate the risk of contracting yellow fever, malaria, or other mosquito-borne diseases completely, they do vastly decrease it. However, having a bednet is not enough; one has to use it. For this reason, education on use is a key part of the Nothing But Nets project.
I am asking friends and family to chip in and help me reach my humble goal of $100 (but more would be great!). Any contribution will help--combined with contributions made for other participants, I'm confident we'll be able to make a hefty donation, at least helping to reduce the risk of contracting malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases that represent a constant obstacle to the health and happiness of so many people in the world.
Note from JCI:
Residents of malaria-endemic countries need your help and they need it now. On average, every 60 seconds a child dies from malaria. There is no time to waste in the battle to stop this devastating disease. The vast majority of deaths occur in Africa, where malaria is a leading killer of children.
Thanks to Nothing But Nets, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation, millions of lives in Africa have been saved through their program to provide long-lasting, insecticide-treated nets to children and families. As a proud and active Nothing But Nets partner, JCI runs a campaign called JCI Nothing But Nets. Through the campaign, JCI members raise funds to send mosquito nets to Africa and educate children and their families on the correct use and care of the nets. While your nation may not be affected by widespread malaria, 40% of people in the world live in countries that are. And they need your help.