Students fight malaria with Neem trees
Fairfield Rotary’s high school and college chapters are trying to stamp out malaria by planting trees.
The idea may sound odd at first, considering previous efforts to control the disease have focused on mosquito nets. But a special kind of tree known as a Neem tree is being used to control the deadly disease in Africa.
Suraj Rao, president of Fairfield Interact, Rotary’s high school chapter, said Neem tree leaves are ground into a cream that repels mosquitoes. Interact and Rotaract, Rotary’s college affiliate, are raising money to purchase these trees so they can be planted in villages stricken with malaria.
Near the end of last school year, the Fairfield Interact and Rotaract clubs raised $500 at a dance. The money will go toward purchasing 100 Neem trees for a village in Tanzania, located in southeast Africa. The trees will be donated through a Fairfield nonprofit called “Rise Africa,” founded by Marie Lehrer in 2007.
Lehrer talked to the students in Interact about her projects in Africa, which include building orphanages, health centers and grain mills. She told the students that malaria was a terrible problem for Africa and was one of the main reasons so many babies die.
Malaria is carried by mosquitoes, who pass it along to humans when they bite them. The Fairfield Interact Club researched ways to stop the spread of malaria. Rao said their two main options were to buy mosquito nets or plant Neem trees.
Neem trees live for 200 years, which means one tree can provide mosquito repellant for many generations of people. Not only that, Rao said the trees are considered a “panacea for all diseases” because of its antiseptic and anticancer properties. With that in mind, the Interactors chose to plant Neem trees.
In addition to buying Neem trees, the Fairfield Interact Club is raising money to help build an orphanage in Tanzania. Rao said he hopes the club, and participating organizations, can raise the $100,000 necessary by December.
Another project on the horizon is to build underground water lines for the villagers in Tanzania. Rao said the women in the village walk for miles to get water, and the water they bring back is not clean.
“One of the main reasons babies die is because they are drinking water that is not clean,” Rao said.
Rao said the club wants to contribute to constructing 10 water-distribution stations in one village.