1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 156

Thursday, April 25, 2013
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

World Malaria Day

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, today the international community is observing World Malaria Day.

In past years, I have shared heartbreaking stories about innocent children who have lost their lives to this preventable and curable disease. Today I would like to speak about the incredible work that one Canadian woman has done to combat malaria and to save children’s lives.

Gail Fones, a registered nurse from Winnipeg, Manitoba, first worked in Uganda in 2005 to assist Ugandan nurses with the development of a community clinic. Since her initial visit, she has returned to Uganda once every year, sometimes even twice. Reflecting on the motivation for her volunteer work in Uganda, Ms. Fones wrote:

There is no greater joy than to know that children you’ve helped are no longer suffering from this killer disease as a result of the malaria education their families have received, and because they are now sleeping under bed nets.

Honourable senators, I first met Ms. Fones while I was visiting Uganda, and I was immediately taken aback by her compassion and determination to reach out to communities whose cries so often fall upon deaf ears.

Ms. Fones, who is a mother of three and a proud grandmother of eleven, reaches out to other mothers and grandmothers by living in their villages and teaching them how to protect their children from malaria. One of her fondest memories of working in Uganda is when she had the opportunity to sit down with several new mothers in Katogo. I accompanied her. Ms. Fones was able to answer important health care questions and to stress the importance of ensuring that the new mothers’ families were protected by insecticide-treated mosquito nets and life-saving vaccinations.

Over the years, she has had the pleasure of visiting these mothers and watching their children grow up to be happy and healthy. Simply taking the time to listen to the health concerns of other mothers, giving them the support they require, and providing them with bed nets that cost as much as your morning coffee has protected these children from contracting malaria and afforded them the opportunity to grow up and one day have children of their own.

Ms. Fones is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Buy-a-Net Malaria Prevention Group. Buy-a-Net, founded by Debra Lefebvre in 2004, is Canada’s first grassroots, volunteer organization focused on disease prevention and poverty reduction through fundraising and generating awareness for prevention and treatment of malaria. Buy-a-Net works with Ugandan community-based groups to tackle malaria through education, bed nets and medication. To date, Buy-a-Net has protected and treated approximately 300,000 Ugandans from malaria.

Honourable senators, between 2000 and 2010 an estimated 1.1 million lives were saved because of the work done by individuals like Ms. Fones. Today, on World Malaria Day, I urge all honourable senators to recognize the difference that one Canadian can make, while at the same time acknowledging that we have a long way to go in our fight against malaria.