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In the Global Fight Against Malaria WHO turns on Gates Foundation?


The deadliest animal on the planet is the irritating little mosquito, responsible for over 1 million deaths annually. Dr. Regina Rabinovich has dedicated her life to solving the problem of malaria, haunted by the specter of 3 deaths of children per minute or 3,000 deaths daily due to the disease.

I guess that's why the Gates Foundation hired her as Director of Infectious Disease in 2003, making malaria and the search for a vaccine of this complex virus a priority. Dr. Rabinovich is a pediatrician and epidemiologist and the recipient of a 1993 NIH merit award for her outstanding contribution to the NIH vaccine research program. In 2002, she argued that Africa was made poor by malaria and that infectious diseases were costing the continent billions of dollars per year. Research from the Wellcome Trust supported her assertions that more money must be spent on the search for a vaccine against malaria, not just treatment of the disease.

The Gates Foundation launched the Malaria Vaccine Initiative in 1999 with a $50 million grant. Today, Dr. Rabinovich commands a budget of $1 billion. The Gates Foundation has put $1.2 billion into malaria interventions since 2000, ramping up the attention the disease had been receiving. Enter Dr. Arata Kochi, Japanese physician and public health specialist, appointed Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme in 2006. Forced out of his previous position as head of WHO's Stop TB Programme because he alienated donors and partners,
Dr. Kochi is complaining that Dr. Rabinovich and the Gates Foundation have created a malaria "cartel". Health policy expert Professor Amir Attaran of University of Ottawa has weighed in, calling Dr. Regina Rabinovich "autocratic".

For some reason this reminds me that one of the things that bothered the Royal Family about Princess Diana was that she worked with HIV/AIDS and leprosy patients. The Queen admonished her to "do something more pleasant". Back in the '80's, when the disease was new and people still thought it could be contracted by casual contact, the Princess sat with AIDS victims and held their hands. That simple act helped change perceptions about AIDS, but it cost Diana personally.

I am grateful to the Gates Foundation and the work they do for global health. If it takes an "autocratic" (translation - strong) person of whatever gender to get the issue of malaria solved, then so be it. Let's support her. Let's thank her. Let's respect her for the years of her life she has dedicated to trying to save lives. As Senator Obama said last night, "...if it was easy, it would already have been done...".

Thanks Pandiyan, for use of photo The Most Dangerous Killer in the World.
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