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On Malaria, UN Explains Net Slow Down, Heat, MassiveGood's Quiet Death

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 25 -- Why did the number of malaria bed nets distributed in Africa fall from 145 million in 2010 to only 66 million last year?

  Thursday was World Malaria Day -- WMD, to some -- so Inner City Press asked at the UN's noon briefing about bed nets, and about the failure of the “MassiveGood” fundraising trumpeted by Philippe Douste-Blazy, former French foreign minister and now sometime-UN official.

  Both questions were addressed by Ray Chambers, with the long title of “Special Envoy of Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon for Malaria and for the Financing of the Health-related Millennium Development Goals.”

Inner City Press asked Chambers about MassiveGood back on December 14, 2010, here.

 OThursday, Chambers said he hadn't heard anything about MassiveGood for the past year.

  Exactly -- it closed down, albeit quietly, in November 2011. What's Douste-Blazy doing now? (Other than this hiring, on which the UN only answered Inner City Press on New Years Eve, here.)

  On bed nets, Chambers said that there had been a push for as many nets as possible in 2010, which inevitably led to a fall-off afterward. Then the Global Fund had to be “re-structured” -- a diplomat word, that -- and so there was less money to buy nets.

  But now, he said, it is turned around. In the first quarter of 2013, some 36 million nets were produced, which he projected to 140 million on the year. And they will be needed: the children who've slept under nets since 2010 now have no immunity at all.

  Chambers explained that there's a move to nets that last longer than three years, but that will require more “tensile strength” to avoid breaking when kicked at by a child. But that makes the nets heavier, and hotter to sleep under, leading some to then not use them.

Joy Phumaphi, Executive Secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, added that there's a move to standardize net size, which will make them cheaper to produce, rather than trying to tailor the size of nets to different regions and preferences. The whole ten minute exchange is here, from Minute 27:22.

  On fundraising, Chambers recounted going to Washington last week, to meet Senator Lindsey Graham and then, drum roll, Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett last Friday.

  Chambers screened the trailer of “Mary and Martha,” a movie involving malaria that premiered on HBO on Saturday. Call it World Malaria Week, with the less tainted acronym WMW. Watch this site.

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