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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Canterbury High School students Priyanka Meesa, left, and Hiba Akbar are fighting the spread of malaria through Nothing But Nets.

Sunday, April 30, 2017 1:00 am

2 from Canterbury fight malaria with nets

FRANK GRAY | The Journal Gazette

It's probably safe to say that almost everyone in America has heard of malaria.

In the United States, though, the disease was all but eradicated after World War II, so we really don't have to worry. We're free to fuss over stuff that, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't really matter.

Hundreds of cases do occur in the U.S. every year, but the most involve travelers or people who have emigrated from places where malaria is present.

In some parts of the world, malaria is still a major problem.

Just ask Priyanka Meesa and Hiba Akbar, two students at Canterbury High School.

Their fathers are from Pakistan and India, and both have had malaria. Meesa's father had a friend who went with his 8-year-old daughter to visit family in India. The family was poor and didn't have mosquito nets. The man's daughter was bitten by a malaria-carrying mosquito. She died within five days.

It was an eye-opening story. “It can happen to anyone, but there was no reason for her to die,” Meesa said.

Last summer, Meesa decided she wanted to get involved in an activity that would let her make a difference in the world. She went to, of all places, the U.N. website and discovered an organization with the basketball-sounding name of Nothing But Nets.

The nonprofit organization takes donations and distributes mosquito nets to areas where malaria is prevalent.

Those areas are usually poverty-ridden.

It's a worthwhile organization. More than 200 million people get malaria each year, and around half a million people die from the disease each year.

But the organization, founded in 2006, hasn't had much publicity, at least not in this area, where malaria is the least of our worries.

Akbar and Meesa, for example, went to a conference sponsored by Nothing But Nets last week, and were the only two from Indiana.

Their hope is to get the word out about the organization, distributing mosquito nets and sharing how large a problem malaria presents in other parts of the world.

Nothing But Nets so far has distributed more than 11 million mosquito nets, but there are about a billion people in areas where malaria is a problem, which ranges from sub-Saharan Africa to Southeast Asia.

The interesting part is how affordable, by American standards, lifesaving nets are. A donation of $10 buys three.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others' experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.