Why George Clooney Should be the New Face of Malaria

So, apparently George Clooney reveals on Piers Morgan’s new CNN show that he contracted Malaria while in Sudan earlier this month.  As you will no doubt recall, Clooney was on hand to witness the historic referendum for South Sudan independence.

Now that he is back stateside, I wonder if he should turn his focus to the global fight against Malaria?  After all, the number of people who died from Malaria in the first decade of the 21st century is an order of magnitude higher than the estimated 2 million people killed in Sudan’s 20 year civil war, which ended in 2005 and presaged the referrendum vote.  In 2009 alone, there were about 781,000 deaths from Malaria in –the vast majority of which were children under the age of five.  That is well above even the highest estimates of the number of people killed in the Darfur genocide.

What is so tragic is that Malaria deaths are preventable. Insecticide treated bed nets, if properly used, can significantly reduce rates of infection. So can some spraying techniques.  For those infected, ARV treatments exist.  In both cases it is just a matter of funding a political will–get bed nets to where they are needed, and strengthen health systems to deal with the sick.

Malaria doesn’t really have a “face” in the west. Sure, we have people like the Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Malaria Ray Chambers,  but he’s not what you might call a household name.  What we need is someone who travel to capitals of donor countries and build popular support for increasing funding for programs like the Global Fund. Maybe he can take paparazzi with him to a few hospitals that treat children suffering from Malaria and show the terrible social and economic strain it the disease puts on already fragile health systems?

The possibilities are limitless.  What do you say, George?