The blood, sweat, and tears of malaria
Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General of the World Health Organization
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
As they say, a picture tells a thousand words, so I can be very brief.
We are looking at the blood, sweat, and tears of malaria, at realities that are usually poorly understood outside endemic countries.
People who have never seen a case of malaria or lost a child to this disease may know the statistics. But statistics never tell a thousand words and never show the people or tell their stories.
We are looking at real people, entirely decent people, some tortured by the memory of a lost child or a beloved father. Some struggling to manage high caseloads of malaria in dilapidated clinics that have waited years for the delivery of good quality medicines.
You can see very clearly the direct links between malaria, dire poverty, and deep human misery. Some pictures tell stories of no money, no drugs, no transport for the deathly ill, no hope.
You see the head of the female mosquito, appropriately magnified to gigantic proportions to signify the scale of this insect’s threat, those millions and millions of blood-meal bites that debilitate and kill.
We are reminded of the damage done by substandard medicines on the market, and of conditions like civil unrest and severe malnutrition that make malaria even more deadly and defeating.
But we are also shown the sweat, the toil. The local workers serving as human bait to collect mosquitoes for research. The insecticide-spraying brigades in their hot protective gear, yet proud of what they are doing for their community, and proud of the respect it commands.
Beyond these images, the heightened attention now being given to malaria means that the sweat and the toil that are combating this disease are now broadly recognized nearly everywhere. The long awaited, and sometimes highly significant, success stories are also in the news.
These significant steps forward are to the credit of many, including health officials in endemic countries, financial support from the Global Fund and many others, advocacy on the part of a growing number of activists, and the deep personal commitment to malaria elimination made by the UN Secretary-General.
Credit also goes to leadership from WHO and its multiple partners, including most especially the Roll Back Malaria Partnership.
The phrase “blood, sweat, toil, and tears” comes from a 1940 speech delivered by Winston Churchill to the House of Commons. That speech was a battle call that rallied the troops.
As Churchill stated, the aim must be victory, however long and hard the road may be, “for without victory there is no survival”.
This photographic exhibition makes a similar statement with thousands of words implied by the simple faces and stories of real people.