One thing that bothers journalists a lot is the flow of publicity bids that arbitrarily designate a day or a month as the best time to ponder a certain pressing topic. Did you know, for instance, that May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, National Foster Care Month and Older Americans Month?
I tend not to open these emails. But recently I received an interesting Peace Corps release about a young man from Sarasota who is doing his bit for public health in Mozambique. The occasion was “World Malaria Day,” which came and went on April 25 without doing much to end malaria. But Shane Meckler is at least trying: “I have worked with my supervisor to give presentations on malaria prevention to a women’s group within our organization known as ‘Anamai Wakakombererwa’ in the local Bantu dialect,” he said. “It translates to ‘Blessed Mothers,’ and is a group of women living with HIV. We are also working with the local hospital to determine how we can go about distributing mosquito nets to these women in addition to families with children who are the most susceptible to coming down with severe malaria.”
Meckler, who graduated from Sarasota High School in 2007 and the University of Central Florida in 2011, has experienced the fragility of African children’s health firsthand: “Malaria is the number one killer in Africa — not AIDS, not starvation or any of the other things many Americans may think of. It’s malaria, spread through a simple mosquito bite. Unfortunately malaria also mostly affects children. Over half of the deaths attributed to malaria are in children under the age of 5. Every child deserves a fifth birthday and many more. Recently, a neighbor’s healthy 2-year-old daughter died suddenly after getting a fever and in all likelihood the culprit was malaria.
I emailed Meckler for more details, but it took a while to hear back from him because his access to technology is spotty. He apologized for missing World Malaria Day, and added that his parents, Susan and Gary Meckler, live and work in Sarasota.