Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 29

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The Honourable Rose-Marie Losier-Cool Speaker pro tempore

The Senate

Motion to Recognize April 25 Annually as World Malaria Day—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer, pursuant to notice of April 2, 2009, moved:

That the Senate recognize and endorse April 25th annually as World Malaria Day.

She said: Honourable senators, today I rise to speak on my motion to proclaim April 25 as World Malaria Day. I believe this action will help to raise awareness and to educate. I believe it will help raise necessary funding to prevent this disease.

World Malaria Day has been formally acknowledged by Canadian municipalities and provinces across our nation. Every year, municipalities and provinces have taken a leadership role by acknowledging this day through proclamations and educational activities. In fact, I returned to Ottawa last week with a proclamation from the City of Vancouver acknowledging April 25 as World Malaria Day.

Malaria is a global health crisis that puts more than 40 per cent of the world’s population at risk. Each year, there are over 500,000,000 cases. This illness will take the life of one in five African children before their fifth birthday. It is heartbreaking that the world has the ability to prevent this disease but people are still dying in such high numbers.

Malaria is a potentially deadly disease transmitted through mosquito bites and kills more than 2,000 children every day. Children make up 90 per cent of the nearly 1 million people who die from malaria every year, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia.

Honourable senators, World Malaria Day is an opportunity for malaria-free countries like Canada to learn about the devastating consequences of the disease and for new donors to join a global partnership against malaria. It is an opportunity for research and academic institutions to flag their scientific advances to both experts and the general public. It is a chance for countries in affected regions to learn from each other’s experiences and support each other’s efforts. It is an opportunity for international partners, companies and foundations to showcase their results and reflect together how to move forward in the fight against this disease.

In Canada, this day should also be a day of reflection. We should be asking ourselves what else we could be doing to combat this killer, which costs developing countries billions of dollars per year in lost economic output.

According to Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre of Norway:

The results will go beyond saving lives . . . By controlling malaria, we can improve school attendance and productivity, open new areas to business and tourism and reduce health costs.

Investing in malaria control is an excellent value for Canadian aid dollars. The disease is 100 per cent treatable with highly effective artemisinin-combination treatments and nearly 100 per cent preventable. Bed nets, for example, reduce all-cause child deaths — not malaria deaths only but all deaths by 20 per cent. Taken together with other tools, there is no scientific controversy: Everyone agrees malaria can be reduced and even eliminated in places. Honourable senators, one net at the cost of $6 will save the lives of four people. That is a very sound investment of a Canadian aid dollar.

The drugs I mentioned have been difficult to obtain. The high cost of these drugs has made them out of reach for those afflicted with malaria, and, as a result, many were still purchasing the cheaper, less effective drugs. Currently, only one in five afflicted with malaria has access to these drugs.

I am pleased to report to you that as of April 17, these drugs have become easier and more affordable to obtain. Last week, a new initiative called the Affordable Medicines Facility — Malaria was announced. It originates with international partnerships from public and private institutions, which include the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Bank, the UN

Children’s Fund, the Dutch government, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation. Once it gets going, it will put affordable, life-saving malaria drugs within the reach of millions of people, especially children in sub-Saharan Africa. The new program is expected to change the global malaria situation significantly.

The $225 million partnership reduces the cost of artemisinin combination therapies or ACTs, which have been 10 to 40 times more expensive than the old drugs. The drugs that were once used have lost their effectiveness because the malaria parasite has developed a resistance to them.

Other global international initiatives to prevent malaria include the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, launched by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank. Its aim is a coordinated international approach to combat malaria. This partnership brings together multiple players with a common goal of halving the global burden of malaria by 2010.

On a personal note, honourable senators, I have often gone to Uganda and other places to work on the issue of malaria. Today, I will take the opportunity to recognize the work of the Canadian NGO Buy-A-Net and its founder, Debra Lefebvre. They work in Uganda by providing nets and have been one of the greatest successes at creating malaria-free zones. I have been in Uganda where I observed Canadian nurse Gail Fones of Buy-A-Net. Gail first creates trust with villagers and then she educates and provides them with the nets. She and others go one-step further by vaccinating the children in the village.

Honourable senators, I want to recognize the Canadian Nurses Association, an association that has nurses from our country spend up to eight months in one village to help those villagers become malaria free.

Gail Fones then goes further. She vaccinates the children in the village, and then she continues to help create an atmosphere that prevents the spread of malaria.

Honourable senators, when I have visited these villages, I have been proud to say I am a Canadian because Canadian nurses are making the difference in the lives of African children.

I want to share my experience on a recent trip to Uganda. I visited a village. While there, I was befriended by a young girl who was about four years old. Her name was Margaret. Everywhere I went, she followed me like a shadow. I became quite taken with her, and in a short time we were inseparable. On my next visit to Uganda, I came back to the same village and I looked for my little friend, Margaret. I went to her home with a present — an anti-malarial for her and her family. I had a recollection of a house filled with laughter, but Margaret’s home sounded eerily quiet. I entered the home and found Margaret’s mother crying. Margaret had just been buried. She had died of malaria. I arrived too late.


Honourable senators, I ask for your support to have April 25 declared World Malaria Day. I further ask for your support to encourage our government to do more, so that we are not too late for the other Margarets of this world.