Saving a hangover could save a life

By on April 4, 2007

Imagine this: you are a seriously ill child, delirious with fever and there is nothing you can do about it. You have no protection from this illness, no treatment for this illness, no medication to get rid of it. The closest health clinic is five miles away and there is no transportation other than your feet. Even if your parents could carry you there (because you are too weak to walk), it wouldn’t matter as the health clinic doesn’t even have clean water. You are getting sicker and sicker, faster and faster. Just days ago you were healthy and running around, playing and eating normally; tomorrow you could meet your death.

Seems like a vicious hell that some sadistic psychopath would make up in their convoluted mind, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s a reality called malaria. Eradicated from the United States decades ago, malaria still plagues much of the world. It is the killer of 1.7 million African children every year. An African child dies every 20 seconds. Since you’ve started reading this article, at least one child has died as a result of malaria.

This seems like a huge problem, doesn’t it? Overwhelming, even. But I’ve got a little news for you, the prevention of this horrible illness is right at our fingertips. Each and every one of us can play a huge role in improving the health of a poor African citizen.

The first step is the installation of insecticide-treated bed nets. According to the World Health Organization, the use of these bed nets alone reduces mortality in children by 25 percent. The cost to manufacture, ship, distribute and install bed nets is only $10. That’s right. A mere 10 bucks.

Not only that, when malaria cases are detected, “A new generation of medicines based on artemisinin, an extract from a traditional Chinese herbal remedy, is remarkably effective in treating cases of the disease, at a cost of a dollar per treatment,” said Jeffery Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Considering all costs involved and all components of malaria control, a comprehensive program would cost only about $4.50 per African at risk per year. Now just think of the ludicrous things you buy for $4.50. Nights at the bar, clothing and trinkets you don’t need and gambling. When at the bar, you’ve heard the 15-minute warning, after which the bouncer grabs you by the back of the shirt and hurls you out onto a dark, cold street corner. You scramble to get that one last $7 drink that will definitely solidify tomorrow’s hangover and add to a night that you will forget most of anyway.

Here’s an idea: stop and think what else you can do with that money. I’m not asking you to not spend any money at the bar – I am the last person to tell you to not go out. You can catch me any Friday or Saturday night at a local bar. But next time, just think of the lives you can save, by just holding off on that one last drink. Not only will you save an innocent African life, but you’ll avoid that awful, next-day headache.

Now that you’ve saved yourself seven bucks, who can you give the money to in order to ensure it goes to the right cause? Well, my friend, I have one more answer for you. Quinnipiac University’s very own Dr. Dennis Richardson started an independent non-profit charitable organization in 2005 to combat malaria, AIDS and poverty in Africa, one village at a time. This organization, The Bawa Health Initiative (BHI), based in Wallingford, has done an absolutely remarkable job aiding the villagers of Bawa, a small village in the West Province of Cameroon.

The goals that BHI has accomplished in just two years will blow your mind. On an extremely limited budget, Dr. Richardson and his group of volunteers have brought clean drinking water to the village, provided bed nets for all its inhabitants and have initiated an HIV/AIDS education program. According to, they are now extending these interventions to neighboring villages and Dr. Richardson will be spearheading the next phase of the project this summer. But to make it work, they need your donation.

If you would like to donate to the effort to help fight this epidemic or spend some time volunteering, please contact Dr. Richardson at or visit the BHI Web site at


About Adam Greenfeld