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Liberians Hold Malaria Conference in U.S.

The second International Conference on Malaria Eradication in Post-Conflict Liberia opens this Saturday, September 30th at North Carolina A&T University in North Carolina. According to conference organizers, an estimated 20 thousand Liberians die each year from malaria, with an economic cost of 40 million dollars annually. Saturday’s conference is being sponsored by the Liberian History, Education and Development Incorporated (LIHEDE) and North Carolina A&T State University. Syrulwa Somah is executive director of LIHEDE. He explains to VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty the objective of the conference.

“The purpose of this conference is to galvanize the Liberians in the United States of America and friends of Liberia to go and attend the main conference in Monrovia, Liberia, from December the 14th to the 19th, and also to raise the needed resources to successfully host the conference in Monrovia.”

Syrulwa says malaria has had a devastating health and economic impact on Liberia.

“In Liberia, we lost about 20 thousand Liberians annually to curable malaria. In addition to that, the country spends 40 million dollars. Malaria is the number one reason for poverty in our country. Regardless of the election and the trained military, you name it, until we defeat malaria that country cannot be delivered. Democracy cannot develop where the people are sick, they cannot work to their maximum ability. So sick people are a liability to the country. ”

Syrulwa also says malaria is the leading cause of absenteeism in Liberia and ranks number one in terms of miscarriages. He explains why malaria continues to kill in Liberia.

“The reason is that malaria is a poor person disease my dear brother. If malaria were killing the rich people of the world – the queens, the kings and the superstars of the world, you and I will not be having this conversation. It’s a poor person disease and it has not gotten the notoriety that HIV and other diseases continue to get. So this is why it continues to be an economic burden not just on Liberia, but look at Africa. It spends 12 billion dollars on malaria and we lost about three million to malaria. In other words, an African child dies every 30 seconds.”

Syrulwa says one goal of the conference is to reduce malaria in Liberia by 90 to 99 percent within the next five years through the use of what he calls an integrated approach.