One of the most important scientific discoveries of our time is called emergent properties. Robert Axelrod, author of “The Evolution of Cooperation” and many other books, defined it, being a feature of complexity, as properties of a system that its separate parts don’t have. It’s primarily determined by the number of interactions that take place within a system thereby sustaining and improving that system. The key here is interaction. The more iterative the interactions are, i.e., the repeated successes, the more the system progresses. This is true in both biological and social organisms. And this holds even truer to what the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) has so far achieved.
Ban Ki-moon, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, has commended ALMA for the work it has done to combat malaria in the African continent. It was able to save thousands of lives across the continent. What’s even more important is that the success it has currently achieved now serves as a good model for tackling other social ills. That’s what emergent properties do. Because of trial and error, the success rates of interactions become more pronounced and therefore repeated within the system it operates.
“The African Leaders Malaria Alliance is breaking down barriers, forging partnerships and getting supplies to families in record time,” Ban said in remarks at the ALMA event in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the sidelines of the summit meeting of the African Union.
“This is remarkable progress. We need to encourage it and use the response to malaria as a model for battling other illnesses and social ills,” he added.
Malaria claims almost one million African lives every year. It affects over 200 million more, mostly pregnant women and children under five years of age. This results in at least $12 billion of costs every year through lost development and opportunity.
ALMA was launched in New York in September 2009. It is a high-level forum set up to oversee the efficient procurement, distribution, and utilization of malaria control measures. It aims to end unnecessary deaths from the disease by 2015.
“This alliance against malaria is stopping the disease and saving thousands of lives. It is a great success story,” Ban said. “You are bringing us closer to our Millennium Development Goal on malaria and showing how we can reach all the MDGs: with commitment at the highest level.”
Last month, the World Health Organization reported that malaria deaths declined by 10 percent between 2008 and 2009. In 11 African countries, the disease’s deadly toll has been cut by more than half since the year 2000.
“Just as malaria is carried by a mosquito that goes from person to person, so does our campaign seek to reach people just as directly,” Ban said. “We want to give every community health worker, every family, every child the tools and protection they need.”
“We’ve delivered over 290 million nets to Africa since 2008. More nets and treatments are on their way. Universal coverage is not just a hope; it is within our reach,” he added.
And just like how emergent properties work, it solves not only current problems, but also addresses other issues of concern. To successfully address the problem of malaria is to address the problem of poverty in Africa. The more lives are saved, the more chances the African people can cope with other problems such as poverty and other socio-political ills.