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Searching for Gold, Finding…Malaria?

By Maria Fernanda Garcia and Ian Ho-A-Shu

The hunt for buried treasure has long and infamously yielded fortune andmisfortune in the same fell swoop. From Jason and the Argonauts’ haunting search for the Golden Fleece, to the 49ers’ mad rush to a then far-off and forbidding California, the search for gold continues to prove simultaneously fruitful and hazardous for those mining below the surface.

Today, a look at mining in Suriname reveals that the men gone to search for treasure often come back with much more than they bargained for. What are we referring to? Malaria. A potent and under-discussed disease that still runs through our region, we encourage you to learn more about efforts against it for this past World Malaria Day.

Invest in the future. Defeat Malaria. So reads the 2014 campaign slogan of the World Health Organization (WHO), who asks the development community to energize commitment to fight malaria with them.  In the homestretch of the quickly approaching Millennium Development Goal (MDG) deadline, the focus to reach MDG#6 continues with stark attention to sub-Saharan Africa.

We remind you, however, not to leave Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) out. Though the region is making impressive strides in the fight against malaria, at least 20 regional countries still face the threat of malaria prevalence, and the miners in Suriname are only an example of those plagued.

Malaria-Prevalence-275x300Captioned in Suriname’s national language, Dutch, the red in this photo indicates malaria prevalence.

An estimated 13,000 gold miners looking to find gold and make it “big” in the Eastern forested areas of Suriname’s interior often find themselves in mosquito-infested areas, as large standing water puddles created by mining activities bring the pests to congregate in their very workspace. Given their isolated location and limited access to medical services, many of these gold miners, a highly mobile population, choose to self-medicate—a decision which often compromises effective treatment.

So, what action is being taken? The IDB is partnering with the Global Fund and contributing to the efforts of the Ministry of Health of Suriname to provide rapid diagnosis, adequate and prompt malaria treatment, and selective vector control in these remote gold mining regions-turned-malaria hot-spots of the Suriname interior.

By year’s end and in partnership with the Global Fund, we expect to support the Ministry’s efforts to train 2000 Malaria Service Deliverers who will have better access to these remote at-risk miner communities, distribute 15,000 treated bed nets and reach 20,000 people with malaria prevention and health promotion messages.

Stay tuned to the results in 2015, as we too, contribute to MDG#6!

This post previously appeared on Partnerships For Development blog on April 25th, 2014.

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