Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, for a number of years I have been working alongside M.P. Patrick Brown as the Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Malaria Caucus. In addition, I work closely with Buy-A-Net, an Ontario-based charitable organization, as well as a number of other organizations, to help eradicate malaria.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of two amazing Canadian women, Ms. Debra Lefebvre and Ms. Gail Fones, as well as an amazing Ugandan woman, Ms. Sarah Komugisha, all of whom are members of the Buy-A-Net organization. I would also like to acknowledge the work of Dr. Martin Nkundeki, who has been the resident volunteer in Uganda for over six years.
Last Wednesday, April 25, as the international community commemorated World Malaria Day, I returned to Katagoo, a village in Uganda, where I joined members of Buy-A-Net and distributed over 500 insecticide-treated mosquito nets. I first visited this village when Senator Stewart Olsen and I accompanied Prime Minister Harper to Uganda for the Commonwealth Conference. I visited this village on behalf of the Prime Minister and Canadians and, over the last six years, I have returned to this area a number of times.
Over the years I made several friends in Katagoo, one of whom is Irene. Irene and I are both grandmothers, and six years ago we bonded over the fact that we both had just become grandparents. We both have always had many stories to share about our precious grandchildren, Adam and Ayaan.
Last Wednesday, Irene was uncharacteristically quiet. As I observed her, I was disturbed by her silence, so I went over to her and asked why she was so quiet and unhappy. Tearfully, she explained to me that I had arrived with the nets too late as her grandson Adam had died of malaria. I hugged Irene and struggled to find words to console her.
Honourable senators, malaria is one of the leading causes of death for children under the age of five and has claimed the lives of many children living in Sub-Saharan Africa, just like Adam. In fact, every 50 seconds a child in Africa dies of malaria. Sarah, Dr. Martin and I, along with many village volunteers who joined us in distributing the bed nets, had a rough day. Sarah, who had spent a number of hours making sure that all the arrangements had been made, was very disappointed that the weather would not cooperate.
However, as we ventured out into the villages last Wednesday, not even the torrential downpour was able to dampen the spirits of those who were anxiously waiting to receive bed nets.
These mosquito nets, which can cover up to four people at a time, act as a wall of defence and protect families from contracting malaria. Ownership of these nets has proven to reduce child mortality rates of children under the age of five by 23 per cent. Unfortunately, with heavy hearts, we had to turn away several families because we ran out of nets to distribute.
Honourable senators, the effect of malaria on developing countries is crippling. We, as Canadians, have the resources and the power to lead the fight against malaria; now, we just need the will.