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Wednesday, February 28, 2024 - 19 Adar I 5784
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Malaria, Africa and Moshiach
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

Malaria affects some 500 million people a year, and causes 100 million deaths. Every thirty seconds, another child dies of malaria. All attempts that have been made in the past half century to formulate a vaccine for malaria have failed, due to the rapid genetic mutation of the protozoan that causes malaria. Drugs to treat malaria have also been slow to develop, due to the fact that malaria mainly strikes very poor countries that find it difficult to pay for extensive research and development. Furthermore, malaria is a protozoan rather than bacterial or viral disease, which means that it requires a completely different approach than most infectious diseases.

In addition to the high death toll, malaria also exacts a heavy economic cost. It is estimated that 40% of the total health budget of the sub-Saharan African countries goes to treat malaria. Those stricken with malaria are also taken out of the workforce, causing cumulative economic stress. The World Health Organization estimates that if not for the plague of malaria, the gross domestic product of African countries would have been up to 30% larger over the past 35 years..

The good news is that an effective vaccine for malaria has finally been developed, and is now in the final phase of clinical trials in Africa. “We can save hundreds of thousands of children a year!” predicts Joe Cohen, the head biologist at Glaxo-Smith-Kline in Brussels, the researcher responsible for developing this vaccine. He hopes that this vaccine will eventually be included in the package provided free of charge to African countries by the World Health Organization.

This vaccine was initially developed for use by the American armed forces. The success of the vaccine, which helped the United States attain its military aims, is now being applied to save the lives of African children.

Over the course of human history, the rule was that foreign powers invaded and exploited weaker nations for their own gain. Bloodshed and plunder were rampant, and national treasures were spent only for the benefit of the king and his own nation.

Today this has changed. The military itself has come to the realization that peace can be assured not just by a show of force but by investing in the prosperity, health and education of foreign countries. The United States, which just a century and a half ago enslaved and exploited Africans, is finally repaying the debt, by investing in African health. The costs of the malaria vaccine are being borne in large part by an American citizen, Bill Gates.

These changes are part the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, "And they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks... No nation will lift a sword against another nation, and they will no longer study war."

Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.


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