Malaria in Southeast Asia, Why It Matters

Just read this article in the Times about how malaria in Cambodia and Thailand is evolving resistance to artemisinin, a drug that has “been hailed in recent years as the biggest hope for eradicating malaria from Africa, where more than 2,000 children die from the disease each day.”

What happens in Cambodia matters to Africa because drug resistant strains have spread from the area to Sub-Saharan Africa in the past.

Though the studies show relatively early signs of resistance to artemisinin, the drugs were judged to have failed in only two patients in the recently published study. Even they were eventually cured.

But malaria experts note that several times in the past, this same area around the Thai-Cambodian border appears to have been a starting point for drug-resistant strains of malaria, starting in the 1950s with the drug chloroquine.

Introduced immediately after World War II, chloroquine was considered a miracle cure against falciparum malaria, the deadliest type. But the parasite evolved, the resistant strains spread, and chloroquine is now considered virtually useless against falciparum malaria in many parts of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa is important to us because it has given us 100 percent of our presidents inaugurated in the month of January 2009.

Don’t you think for a second that stabilization of these countries is isn’t important to America and American businesses. Just ask Russell Spell. Yes, keeping Africans healthy, happy, and free affects how much you pay at the pump. Also, you know, kids…not dying

The American military and American companies and charities are involved in the fighting of this problem. Case in point:

To prevent a recurrence with artemisinin therapies, the United States has put aside political considerations and approved a malaria monitoring center in military-run Myanmar, formerly Burma. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest donors to malaria research, is giving $14 million to the Thai and Cambodian governments to help pay for a containment program.

Hold up. No one disputes that this is a problem with wide-ranging potential human affects. But isn’t this the same “military-run” Myanmar junta that everyone was calling for the UN to overthrow in the wake of Cyclone Nargis? Yeah, remember that? Only about 130,000 dead and the military demand control of all international aid supplies and food. They even sentenced a popular comedian to 45-years in prison for criticizing the governments response to the crisis.

Imagine living in an America where the government throws John Stewart in jail for the rest of his natural life for criticizing the response to Katrina?

Oh, and this is the same Thailand whose Army might have killed hundred of ethnic Muslim minorities by setting them adrift at sea?

Oh yeah, and in the Times article Cambodia is described as impoverished nation are on full display in its western corner: the girls for hire outside restaurants, the badly rutted dirt roads and the ubiquitous signs that warn “Danger Mines!”

This might be a stretch, but I’m gonna say that unless we monitor that money and resources carefully it’s not going to end up helping the people who need it.


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