February 16, 2004

A mosquito problem

I have to admit, for questions and issues on which there is no 'stock' conservative answer, the National Review can be quite, quite good. So goes this blather-free article by Robert Bate about the failure of the WHO and the Global Fund to treat malaria:

Across Africa, the Global Fund spent more money to buy the obsolete medicines rather than ACT, in quantities large enough to treat at least 10 times as many patients. Those obsolete medicines were supplied to countries where drug resistance is known to be rampant, and where child mortality of malaria is shown to be up to 1,100-percent higher because of this. As a result, tens of thousands of children died of malaria-and continue to die-who needn't have.
Why isn't this a bigger scandal? If these were bogus AIDS drugs being shipped, we would be reading about feelgood rallies and candlelight vigils across the world. I've never quite understood why 'minor' diseases in Africa such as malaria and tuberculosis garner so little attention, as opposed to, say, AIDS. Yes, the latter is truly horrific and becoming an increasingly severe problem, but malaria still dominates and devastates Africa, costing the continent some $12 billion a year. And the harsh truth is, malaria is easily treatable. It comes down to relatively cheap medicine and mosquito nets, really. Third World nations and global health organizations might honestly be better off focusing more of their resources on these easily treatable diseases, and worrying--dare we say it?--less about costly treatments for AIDS victims. (HIV prevention, needless to say, should still be fully pursued.) It seems perverse, but it might also be prudent.
-- Brad Plumer 7:32 PM || ||