A Moral Imperative: the Defeat of Malaria by the Right Honourable Tony Blair and the Honourable Belinda Stronach



    Attention editors: the following Op-Ed column appeared today in the
    on-line edition of the Globe and Mail

    OTTAWA, Sept. 25 /CNW Telbec/ - Today (Sept. 25), as part of the UN's
High-level Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, the world will gauge
its progress in combating the scourge of malaria in Africa. While there is
reason for optimism, renewed vigor is required in the fight against a disease
that kills nearly one million people each year, many of them under five years
old.
    While we have largely eliminated malaria in our own countries some time
ago, the disease still kills with ruthless efficiency across much of Africa,
where 3,000 children die each day.
    Malaria is almost entirely preventable using existing technologies. A
simple bed net significantly reduces the likelihood of the disease being
spread. Anti-malaria drugs can radically reduce disease and death. Research
into new technologies, such as a vaccine, is promising and is being supported
by significant investment. We have within our power the ability to defeat
malaria with a burst of rapid, concerted action. Today's meeting must serve as
a catalyst to a renewed and accelerated campaign.
    The most pressing need is for bed nets. Treated with insecticide, these
nets can protect a sleeping family from malaria-carrying mosquitoes. They
represent a critical first wave of prevention.
    250 million nets in total are required; a little more than half that
number has been pledged. This past April, on World Malaria Day, UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on governments, corporations, foundations
and citizens to close that gap and ensure that bed nets are available to all
who need them by the end of 2010. The equation is as simple as it is dire: the
longer we take to provide these essential tools to Africans, the more people
will die. The longer we take to put an end to a disease we have the ability to
stop, the more people will die. Malaria is more than a disease. It is a global
injustice that the people of Canada and the United Kingdom need to face
together.
    Through our respective foundations, we are both active in the campaign to
beat malaria. Overseas, The Tony Blair Faith Foundation has called on people
of all religions to demonstrate the good that faith can do in the world by
responding to an urgent 10-week campaign to fund one million bed nets.
Particularly in Africa, faith communities reach the poorest and most isolated
communities with health care and their importance in halting and reversing the
incidence of malaria is increasingly acknowledged by governments. But they
urgently need more financial support from global funds.
    In Canada, Spread the Net has demonstrated the considerable power of
grassroots philanthropy, raising enough funds to purchase and deliver more
than 250,000 bed nets. A donation of $10 buys and delivers one net to protect
up to as many as five people; a single bed net can protect an entire
household. With each donation, we bear witness to the fact that human concern
can transcend borders and oceans. Each transaction represents one person's
caring for another, expressed through the gift of protection.
    The defeat of malaria is above all else a moral imperative. But it would
do more than save countless lives and keep families whole. It would contribute
to an invigorated Africa - improving economic productivity, strengthening
communities and reducing the burden on the health care system.
    Liberia is one of the countries of Africa all too familiar with the human
toll wrought by malaria. Its president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, put it so
beautifully when she said: "It's not only that the children of Africa deserve
a future. It's that Africa itself deserves the future these children would
have. Africa deserves the help they would provide in developing and building
the continent."
    The people of Africa have the talents and energy to overcome the problems
facing them. All they need is the help and commitment from the rest of us. We
owe them nothing less.

    The Right Honourable Tony Blair is the former Prime Minister of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland and, among other things, founder of the Tony
Blair Faith Foundation.

    The Honourable Belinda Stronach is the former Member of Parliament for
Newmarket-Aurora and, among other things, a founder of Spread the Net.




For further information:

For further information: For interview requests for Ms. Stronach, please
contact Greg MacEachern, (613) 235-1400 ext 237

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