I was delighted to speak to Laurence Reed, the host of a lunchtime show on BBC Radio Cornwall about Fight Malaria, the Malaria Conference that took place earlier this year and the future of the disease.
LAURENCE REED: Now as you know here on BBC Radio Cornwall, from time to time we get people who just walk in the door for no particular reason who just want to have a look around the station. And that’s been the case this week with a young man called Thomas Locke and Thomas is on holiday from Portsmouth. But Thomas is like no other youngster, well I say young, how old are you, Thomas?
THOMAS LOCKE: 15
LAURENCE REED: So what brings you here, first of all. I want to find out about something that you have won an award about, but you’ve come in here for what particular reason?
THOMAS LOCKE: I have an interest in broadcast journalism and radio, I think it’s a really interesting medium and I wanted to learn more about how radio is produced here in Cornwall. I produce podcasts and interviews and create content online about malaria, the tropical disease that affects millions and millions of people.
LAURENCE REED: Why?
THOMAS LOCKE: Well, interesting question. In 2016, GSK, GlaxoSmithKline, held a competition for schoolchildren across the UK. I entered, I was really excited and the whole idea was ‘how can you eliminate malaria?’ I came third, but I wanted to continue on and I did, I redeveloped a site and it’s continuing today.
LAURENCE REED: Tell me about this site, and third is pretty impressive, this was a national competition, don’t beat yourself up, that is phenomenal. Tell me about the site.
THOMAS LOCKE: It’s a website, its fightmalaria.co.uk and on there every week, I produce a minute podcast and it details all the latest news in malaria, whether it’s eradication, elimination, new research or new interesting facts about malaria. I also do a podcast called ‘Five Minutes’ and that’s also released weekly. That is interviews with people in the malaria field, whether it would be a researcher or a community fundraiser, loads of different people with different stories to tell.
LAURENCE REED: Why would a 15-year-old be so fascinated with this subject?
Well, it’s interesting because I don’t feel that we know enough about malaria. We have a bit of self-interest in the news, we’ll hear about these things that are affecting us in the UK but I think we often distance ourselves with the amazing work that we’re doing here in the UK and across the world to eradicate malaria. A child dies every 30 seconds from this disease, it’s terrible. We are at a turning point now, there was a huge conference earlier this year in London, Penny Mordaunt MP, the Secretary of State was leading that and providing a great platform for world leaders to come about, so it’s a really interesting time in malaria. I’m certainly interested in learning about it, about the science of it as a disease, but also in terms of the political attitudes and how we can lead the way.