Donating $10 to buy a mosquito net to save an African child from malaria has become a popular way to show you care, especially for teenagers, with some saying the campaign is becoming a twenty-first century version of the March of Dimes or collecting pennies for UNICEF on Halloween, the New York Times reports.
The development of an inexpensive, long-lasting insecticidal net has been a critical factor in the fight against malaria, which kills one million people a year, mostly in Africa. Unlike old nets, which either had no insecticide or had to be dipped twice a year, new nets kill or repel mosquitoes for three to five years. And when more than 60 percent of the inhabitants of a village use them while sleeping, malaria rates usually drop sharply.
The effort has attracted some unusual allies, including the Methodist and Lutheran churches, the National Basketball Association, and the United Nations Foundation, which have teamed up to advance Nothing But Nets, the best-known campaign. Meanwhile, earlier this spring the "American Idol Gives Back" television special raised approximately $6 million for malaria-prevention efforts, while VH1 created buzz with a fundraising video featuring a man in a mosquito suit.
Those appeals and others have grabbed the attention of young people, especially teenagers. While experts estimate it will cost $2.5 billion to meet the existing need — and groups such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the President's Malaria Initiative, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation already having contributed roughly half that amount — the message that $10 can save the life of a child resonates with people of all ages.
Naomi Levine, an expert on philanthropy at New York University, noted that, more than ever, young people want to make a difference. "You won't find them giving money to research — it's too far off. But a net is something you can hold in your hand," said Levine. "And any time young people get interested in any form of philanthropy, it's a good thing."