An initiative to mobilize teens in the fight against malaria has raised nearly half a million dollars since its launch – most of which came in over the past four months.
But more than the money, the Bite Back campaign – the brainchild of Compassion International and Jordan Foxworthy, the 17-year-old daughter of comedian Jeff Foxworthy – has been raising awareness of a preventable, curable disease that kills more African children than does HIV/AIDS.
"There's no excuse for not stopping malaria right now," says Jordan. "Poor parents have so much to worry about - how to feed their children and try to get them an education and keep them safe…This is one thing we can take off the list."
"We can get them nets so their children can sleep safe at night. We can do that," she adds. "We can bite back."
Malaria is a blood infection caused by a tiny parasite most commonly transferred to people through the bite of a mosquito carrying it. If not treated quickly, what starts with a fever and moves on to headaches and vomiting can eventually overwhelm the body or even infect the brain and cause a coma.
At this point, malaria becomes fatal.
According to reports, there are 350-500 million cases of malaria occur worldwide each year and each day malaria kills 3,000 children. In Africa, where 90 percent of malaria deaths occur, the disease is the number one killer of children.
"We can't sit back and wait for someone to fix this. We are the 'someones' who need to fix this," says Jordan, who was inspired three years ago to "bite back" after seeing first-hand the devastation caused by malaria in the African nation of Kenya.
Through the Bite Back campaign, Jordan and Compassion International are challenging teens to donate $10 to purchase a mosquito net that could save the life of a child at risk for contracting malaria. Though $10 may not sound like much in a country like the United States, it is a cost many families in Africa cannot afford to pay.
"I believe that giving $10 to buy a mosquito net is a tangible and affordable way for kids in the United States to help make a difference in the lives of needy kids around the world," says Jordan.
"You can help end a disease. It doesn't take hours and hours of time. It's a $10 net," she adds.
Since her trip to Kenya, Jordan has been encouraging members of her own local community to participate in the campaign while spreading the word through brochures, a Facebook group page, and a number of other ways.
The goal of the campaign is to mobilize youth around the country to provide 300,000 mosquito nets through Compassion International to protect African children from malaria.
"Jordan Foxworthy is showing us that even in these tough economic times, giving a little can have a big impact on a child living in poverty," commented Mark Hanlon, senior vice president of Compassion International.
Aside from providing mosquito nets, Compassion's Malaria Prevention Program provides malaria prevention education and access to medical treatment for children in malaria-affected areas.
The Christian child development organization is also working on mosquito repellant trees, which has so far been effective in reducing the population of mosquitoes and reducing the number of malaria cases in Tanzania, where the potentially new weapon against malaria is being tested.
"The nets are step one," Jordan reports.
Last December, in recognition of her efforts, Jordan was invited by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to participate as a panelist in their Compassion in Action roundtable.
Jordan is currently an eleventh grader at a Christian high school in Norcross, Ga., near Atlanta, that "prepares ... students to be 'salt and light' in this world." She has traveled to Africa three times, and has also traveled in Europe.
On the Web:
Bite Back on Facebook.com
Bite Back Campaign's Web site at biteback.net