Zanzibar Success
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Though malaria remains a serious killer in sub-Saharan Africa, there are examples of success. Using available tools -- insecticide-treated bednets, drugs, and indoor residual spraying -- Ethiopian and Rwanda have halved their incidences of the disease.

Insecticide-treated bednets break the cycle by preventing the mosquito from biting a person in the first place. Drugs kill the malaria parasite residing in a victim's body. Spraying small amounts of insecticide on the inside walls of homes also breaks the cycle, as mosquitoes rest on nearby walls after biting and taking a blood meal from a malaria sufferer. If mosquitoes die on the wall, the insects can't transmit the disease.

The most dramatic example of the success of this approach took place on the islands of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania. A coalition of international and local government groups, nonprofit organizations, and businesses banded together, and malaria rates dropped dramatically from about 35 percent to fewer than one percent.

Despite the islands' relative isolation, fishermen travel back and forth across the water to the mainland, and they could easily catch malaria on mainland Tanzania and spark another outbreak. To prevent this, a cell phone company has offered free phones and usage; if a case of malaria occurs, a special number receives a text alert, and a team jumps to spray the infected person's home.

Expanding this approach is hampered by a lack of funds, under-developed infrastructure around the continent, and a lack of education on the local level about how malaria is transmitted. Experts say that it's difficult to prevent malaria from recurring, but sufficient funding for the triple-pronged approach with vigilant follow-up has the potential to reduce the disease by about 90 percent.

Host Peggy Wehmeyer spoke to Mark Green, former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania and director of the Malaria Policy Institute in D.C., about Zanzibar's success.
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