photo: Population Services International, courtesy of Photoshare

 
 

A $3 insecticide-treated bed net may be the best present Mustapha Dangeni's two children have ever received. Since the Tanzanian Government distributed the nets as part of an anti-malarial campaign, they have been gloriously fever free for more than a year.

At any given moment, around half the population of the developing world suffers from malaria, dysentery, diarrhoea, typhoid, cholera or other diseases that are almost non-existent in developed countries. Ninety-five per cent of the 39.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS are in the developing world, 65 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Unsanitary living conditions, poor medical supplies and lack of public awareness and education facilitate the spread and severity of disease.

UNEP's GEO Yearbook 2004/05 highlights how rising global temperatures and human encroachment into natural reserves are also altering habitats, allowing deadly viruses to thrive. Competition for scarce resources often forces animals and humans into close proximity, inviting the rapid spread of infection across species.

 

Tiny sums per person can mean the difference between life and death; it costs less than 10 cents for oral rehydration salts to cure diarrhoea, roughly 2 cents for vitamin A pills to relieve malnutrition and 14 cents per condom to protect against HIV/AIDS. Yet these are often unavailable to the world's poorest - who need them most.

Malaria, eradicated throughout most of the world in the 1950s, still kills 3,000 African children each day, most under the age of five. Bed nets sprayed with insecticide, costing just $3 or less, can reduce infections by up to 50 per cent. Sadly, less than 2 per cent of the continent's children sleep, like the Dangenis, under nightly protection.

 
      photo: J. Stipe/Lutheran World Relief, courtesy of Photoshare  
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