The fight against malaria has long been woven with the threads of other global struggles for equity and justice, from poverty to gender inequality.
Women and girls are among the most at-risk groups from this treatable and preventable disease. 1 in 3 pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa will get malaria during pregnancy, which can lead to life-threatening illness.
Women are on the frontlines of the battle against malaria. They make up the majority of community health workers on the ground and are the primary caregivers losing time and income when their relatives get malaria.
Around the world, women are also the scientists who are making breakthroughs and turning the tide against this deadly disease. Whether it is the next-generation bed nets, some of the world’s first malaria vaccines to be approved by the WHO, or revolutionary new treatments, women are playing a crucial role.
Here are just some of the incredible female scientists who are making huge strides to ensure this is the generation that creates a zero malaria world!
Vaccines Medical Manager – East Africa, GSK, Kenya
Clara is a lead for GSK in Kenya on the RTS,S vaccine – the worlds’ first WHO-approved malaria vaccine that is rolled out right now in some of the hardest-hit regions in sub-Saharan Africa. Clara told us why she joined the fight…
"During my medical training I witnessed a lot of death among children under 5 from malaria…[Now] for me as a mother with a daughter under 5, it becomes personal that I contribute to the fight against this disease."
Scientist & Microbiologist, Kenya
Evitar works at the KEMRI institute in Kelifi, Kenya, where she has played an important role in developing and researching malaria vaccines. For Evitar the malaria fight is about equity, to make sure everyone has the chance to grow up malaria-free…
"Girls would have more time to be in school, girls would have more time to be empowered, we’re going to have more time to research other life-threatening diseases. We will have less of a burden on our healthcare systems."
Medical Laboratory Scientist,
Jesutomisin remembers the painful headaches and fever when, as a teenager, she was attacked by malaria. Her parents took her to a clinic where she was diagnosed and treated – and luckily, despite suffering a relapse, she survived. Her experience left her determined to help bring an end to malaria for good, both in her home country of Nigeria and across the world. While studying at university:
"I met with a mother who, due to unavailable treatment at the point of need, could not afford the prescription given by the physician – she lost a two year old boy… That was heart-breaking for me… I saw it as a call to action."
PhD Researcher, UK
Lina grew up in China and now works in an interdisciplinary research lab at Kings College London focussed on solving pharmaceutical challenges in infectious diseases, including malaria.
"The most exciting news is that we have two new countries that have eliminated malaria… But there are still people suffering from this disease, so I want to help eliminate malaria for the whole world… we need all the people to fight together against this disease."
Assistant Research Professor, Spain
Raquel has dedicated her career to helping ensure pregnant women and children survive malaria. The realisation that more than 11 million women are exposed to malaria during pregnancy in Africa drove her to action:
"I decided to continue working in malaria, in order to improve the health of children and pregnant women, who are actually the most vulnerable to malaria. We are in front of a crisis – we know we have the tools, we know how to end malaria. Now’s the moment to do it."
Research Fellow, Tanzania
Nancy works in Tanzania helping to develop a new generation of bed net that is much more effective at killing mosquitoes and reducing cases of malaria. These effective new nets have been proven to reduce malaria in the community, meaning families save money on treatment, and their children are safer and healthier.
"It is everyone’s dream to have a malaria-free house or a malaria-free country, that is my dream too! [The new nets] mean people have fewer children or members of the family going to the hospital, and fewer treatment costs. So, they can save money and use it for other things. Families have a better life and a better education."