With Seattle's growing importance as a leading voice in the global health funding and medical research community, its philanthropic and nonprofit community is at the center of the worldwide fight against malaria, write guest columnists Nancy Sclater and Carlos C. (Kent) Campbell.

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SEATTLE’S philanthropic and nonprofit community is at the center of the worldwide fight against malaria.

New partnership continues the tradition of Seattle being an active part of the global community.

Seattle has long been known as a socially motivated community. People are always willing to stand up for important causes here and across the world. We may be far removed geographically from children dying in Africa, but it is a cause that demonstrates the growing reputation and commitment Seattle has toward global philanthropy that will help improve the lives of people everywhere.

Many African nations are exhibiting leadership by tackling this deadly disease that kills an estimated 1 million people a year, most of whom are children under the age of five, in sub-Saharan Africa. With its growing importance as a leading voice in the global health funding and medical research community, Seattle’s philanthropic and nonprofit community is at the center of the worldwide fight against malaria.

Malaria is one of the most common infectious diseases worldwide, and it attacks the most vulnerable populations — the very young, the very poor, the pregnant, the elderly and the sick. About 3,000 children die from malaria every day — that’s one child every 30 seconds. Malaria kills more children in Africa than any other disease. It is estimated that $12 billion is lost in Africa every year due to illness and death caused by malaria.

Yet there are simple, affordable and effective tools available today that can be used to prevent and treat malaria — like sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net, safe indoor spraying of insecticides, and effective medicines. In Zambia, for example, an aggressive distribution effort of these prevention tools has reduced the country’s malaria-related deaths by nearly 70 percent. This is an extraordinary achievement for Zambian leadership that underscores the importance of the partnership between the Zambian government and the international donors, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations committed to the fight against malaria.

A number of those committed partners making a difference in the struggle against malaria are right here in the Seattle area, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute. However, sustaining the progress made in Zambia and other African nations and expanding the fight against malaria requires new partnerships and leadership from others in the civic and business communities.

Rotary Clubs around the world have made pivotal contributions in the effort to eradicate polio. Building on the success of this effort and to commemorate 100 years of service to the Northwest, the Rotary Club of Seattle is launching a new initiative, in partnership with PATH and other Rotary Clubs, to build on the national and international networks of Rotary, the lessons learned from polio eradication efforts, and the resources in the Seattle region. The goal of this partnership is to eliminate and eventually eradicate malaria, and we urge everyone in Seattle to join us in this effort.

Success in the fight against malaria requires a coordinated effort for universal coverage of malaria-prevention interventions. It costs less than $10 to buy, distribute and provide education about the proper use of a bed net — an investment that will last for approximately five years — to protect a family in Africa. There are few public-health interventions that are as cost-effective. While insecticide-treated bed nets are urgently needed, they are the first in a series of steps toward the long-term fight against malaria. The approach proposed by the Rotary Club of Seattle will build the capacity in communities and national programs to ensure that bed nets and other services will be delivered to areas where they are needed.

This new partnership continues the tradition of Seattle being an active part of the global community. At a time when the global economics would prompt focusing our attention and resources on our own communities, we must not forget that we have a responsibility to a broader community outside our neighborhoods.

The health and productivity of people in Africa has broad implications globally. There is a continued perception that African nations cannot manage their business; however, there is striking evidence to the contrary. Zambia has demonstrated that with strong leadership and political will, success can be attained. This partnership with the Seattle scientific community and Rotary Clubs around the world will produce a model that can be replicated in other communities.

We urge our community to renew our commitment to the least advantaged children in Africa and to continue the progress in halting totally preventable deaths from malaria.

Nancy Sclater is president of Seattle Rotary. Carlos C. (Kent) Campbell is director of PATH’s Malaria Control Program.