December 20, 2006
A University of California, Davis malaria researcher who participated in the White House Summit on Malaria said the newly launched $30 million Malaria Communities Program initiative will "raise awareness of malaria and mobilize a grassroots effort to save millions of lives in Africa."
The initiative encourages everyone to work together to control malaria, said medical entomologist Gregory Lanzaro, who directs the statewide UC Mosquito Research Program, UC Malaria Research and Control Group and Center for Vectorborne Diseases, all headquartered at UC Davis.
First Lady Laura Bush, who keynoted the Dec. 14 summit and invited Lanzaro to the event, said malaria kills 3000 children in Africa every day, but "adding to the urgency is the fact that malaria is treatable and preventable."
"The disease once sickened men, women, and children in many parts of the United States," she said. "But through advances in science and technology, we learned that the cause of such enormous suffering is a microscopic parasite, carried by an insect. We learned how to stop the spread of malaria -- and the disease was eliminated in the United States nearly 60 years ago.
"The challenge now," she said, "is to use this scientific progress, so that it benefits people still at risk."
The four-hour summit drew more than 200 participants, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings; Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Ann Veneman, executive director of UNICEF and former secretary of the U. S. Department of Agriculture; and Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, chair of the American Red Cross.
The summit was part of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), a five-year, $1.2 billion program formed in June 2005 that challenges the private sector to join the U.S. government in combating malaria in 15 of the hardest-hit African countries. PMI’s goal is to cut malaria’s mortality rate by 50 percent in the target countries.
Lanzaro said the UC Malaria Research and Control Group (UC MRCG), comprised of scientists from four UC campuses in partnership with mosquito abatement experts from the 61-district Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California (MVCAC), aims to play a major role in malaria research and control. The group, formed in February, is drawing widespread support throughout the state and nation. In November, the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District wrote to President Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger seeking support for the humanitarian project.
UC MRCG has vowed to defeat malaria, "one of the world’s oldest and deadliest diseases." Some of the UC scientists have ongoing partnerships in African countries and research grants that target malaria.
MVCAC and member districts will lend their expertise, said Lanzaro, describing MVCAC as "one of the most comprehensive and technically advanced mosquito programs in the world."
A four-member UC MRCG delegation journeyed to Tanzania in October to meet with governmental officials and mosquito abatement program directors. The delegation included Lanzaro; UC Davis medical entomologist Anthony Cornel, director of the UC Mosquito Research Laboratory at the Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier; and MVCAC representatives Major Dhillon, manager of the Northwest Mosquito and Vector Control District, Corona, and Steve Mulligan, who manages the Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District, Selma.
Lanzaro expressed hope that the Malaria Communities Program will help fund the UC-based program. "There is no other malaria program that I am aware of that includes the significant expertise of the mosquito abatement community in the United States," he said. "Our program includes an impressive array of mosquito control experts backed by some of the leading mosquito biology researchers in the United States."
In her keynote address, the First Lady said the Malaria Communities Program will provide grants to African and American non-profit organizations to support their malaria-control work.
"Defeating this disease requires the cooperation of citizens in Africa," she said. "It also requires the support of citizens here, in the United States. Each and every one of us has the responsibility to stop the suffering caused by malaria--because every life, in every land, matters. And all of us can do something to help, because one of the best protections against malaria is simple and inexpensive: a long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed net. Only a fraction of African homes have the bed nets they need. But any individual who can raise $10 can buy a net, and save a life."
She said that "every one of us can do something to help prevent the suffering caused by malaria. And the more people know about this disease, the more quickly we can defeat it."
President Bush, who spoke briefly at the summit, has designated April 25, 2007, as Malaria Awareness Day.
More information on the UC Malaria Research and Control Group is at http://www.mrcg.ucdavis.edu/.
The full text of the keynote address at the White House Summit on Malaria is at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/12/20061214-3.html.
Participant biographies are at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/12/20061214-1.html.
For the UC MRCG delegation’s trip to Tanzania, see http://www.mrcg.ucdavis.edu/news/tanzaniatrip.html.
The UC Malaria Research and Control Group is part of the UC Mosquito Research Program (www.ucmrp.ucdavis.edu), a statewide program of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
UC Mosquito Research Program
Lanzaro Vector Genetics Lab
UC Malaria Research and Control Group
UC Davis Center for Vectorborne Diseases (CVEC)
Kathy Keatley Garvey, Communications
University of California Statewide Mosquito Research Program
Department of Entomology
Phone: (530) 754-6894
Fax: (530) 752-1537