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MalariaEngage hopes social networking will bring funds to African researchers

Page history last edited by Rosemary 8 years, 11 months ago

Empowering researchers in the developing world to find solutions to their countries' own problems

An African medical research institute, a global health think tank, and a young British entrepreneur have joined forces to connect African researchers  directly with individuals who want to help fight malaria, using the social networking power of the internet. Debuted just before World Malaria Day on April 25, www.MalariaEngage.org allows people to contribute $10 or more to projects proposed by scientists in developing countries.

Borne by mosquitos, malaria is a preventable disease that infects an estimated 515 million people yearly and kills between one and three million annually, the vast majority of them children in sub-Saharan Africa -- an estimated 3,000 child victims daily.

Malaria is the leading cause of death in Tanzania, and researchers at the country’s National Institute for Medical Research proposed the website's first seven featured projects, which have objectives ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. They include projects that aim to increase Intermittent Preventive Treatment among pregnant women, to establish large-scale production of mosquito-repelling plants and shrubs, and to improve collaboration between traditional healers and health workers to address malaria in rural communities.

As these projects reach their funding goals, new projects will replace them. The site features a discussion area where supporters can interact with researchers and each other, obtain news and photos of both funded and proposed projects, a running tally of money raised, and stories from the front lines in the war against malaria. As well, it will fit seamlessly into other social networking sites such as Facebook, whose users can add malaria research projects as a “cause” on their profile.

The team behind MalariaEngage.org includes 25-year-old Tom Hadfield, who developed Soccernet as a high school student and sold it at age 17 to ESPN for $40 million. Now studying at Harvard, Hadfield visited Zambia last summer and saw the devastation caused by the disease. "Everyone I met at an aid project making mosquito nets in Zambia had either lost a child to malaria or knew someone who had." In Tanzania, he met researchers working on malaria treatments and discovered that they had difficulty finding funding for their research.

“By encouraging individual participation and involvement, we will create international communities of common interest,” he says. “This is the essence of social networking – MalariaEngage.org connects people who want to help directly with researchers working in Africa on malaria prevention, treatment and capacity building projects. When we tap into all that energy and creativity to promote and raise funds for malaria research projects, not just in Tanzania but elsewhere in Africa and the developing world, who knows what might be achieved?”

Co-founders Peter A. Singer and Abdallah S. Daar are global health professors and medical doctors at Canada’s McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health at University Health Network and University of Toronto (MRC), the project’s lead partner.

While the inequity in global health is one of the world’s most significant ethical challenges, says Dr. Singer, many young people in the United States, Canada, Europe and other industrialized countries have not had a way to address it. “MalariaEngage.org was designed to give them a channel to do something in practice about that ethical value of solidarity, to mobilize a vast untapped pool of support – not just to raise funds but also to create a worldwide community of people committed to changing the face of global health."

Tapping the talents and motivation of scientists in developing countries is vital, says Dr. Daar. “Malaria is an ongoing global health catastrophe that must be addressed by empowering researchers in the developing world to find solutions to their countries’ own problems through creative, properly capitalized research programs.” If this initial proof of concept is successful, MalariaEngage.org will scale up by involving other African-based institutions fighting malaria, he adds.

This story was prepared from a much longer McLaughlin-Rotman Centre April 20, 2008 news release entitled Popularizing Philanthropy for Developing World Research: Fighting Malaria in Africa Goes Democratic via Internet; a Reuters news story by John Joseph entitled From soccer to social networking site on malaria dated April 22, 2008 distributed by OneWorld Net; and information on the MalariaEngage website.


For other stories about malaria, see:

Hedge funds do business against malaria

Cross-border cooperation reduces malaria risk in southern Africa

Malaria Vaccine Initiative works to provide hope for saving lives

Sri Lanka is close to eliminating malaria as a deadly scourge

Ground-breaking malaria findings may aid drug, vaccine development

Cell phone can monitor HIV and malaria patients, test water quality

High speed computer networks kickstart new anti-malarial drug development

Mobile phones and FrontLineSMS help contain malaria in Cambodia

Mapping malaria risk in Africa leads to more effective malaria control

Health care by mobile phone helps parents save childrens’ lives in Congo

New global map shows where malaria could be better controlled, or eliminated

Leaders of Africa’s faith communities work together to prevent malaria deaths

Malaria's bitter pill made sweeter for children

Cheap and simple community-based measures save childrens' lives worldwide

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