I had the chance to speak at the annual Grand Challenges meeting in London. It was an incredible opportunity to share my personal experience of malaria and why the work we do is so important. Malaria is one of the deadliest parasitic diseases. It has killed millions of people, but I am a fortunate survivor. When you look at the statistics of malaria, the numbers are speaking for themselves. 200 million cases of which 400 000 dying every year. These numbers give you a notion of scale, but more than numbers they speak to our consciousness, as these 400 000 deaths are linked to tremendous emotional suffering.
Bednets and IRS have done an incredible job by cutting down the death toll of the disease to less than 400 000 per year. This has brought a smile to many faces, but the question is — for how long? We are facing mounting challenges. Insecticide resistance is growing fast, big and noxious, making it clear that unless new tools are found to complement existing ones, we may never cross the last mile of malaria elimination.
But we could be getting closer to eliminating malaria with new emerging technologies being a part of the solution. I believe the work we’re doing through Target Malaria can help achieve a world free of malaria in my lifetime. I know it seems ambitious, but just as I told the people at Grand Challenges, we’ve been ambitious before: we are now thinking of settling on Mars and we’ve been doing space missions for about 50 years. Why should we not be as ambitious about a disease that affects millions of people every year, just on our door step?
It was great to see our work and that of other teams doing ground breaking research — like Eliminate Dengue — recognised in London and I am now back in Burkina working with my team with ever more determination!