Malaria: looking long term
Friday, April 24, 2009
As we’ve come to expect, World Malaria Day is preceded by a plethora of stories on how many billions of dollars are spent fighting the disease.
An accompanying chorus comes from actors, footballers and any grinning celebrity who wishes to tell the world how excited they are at the prospect of rich countries buying bed-nets for poor countries.
Thankfully one report with a more balanced outlook comes in today’s Financial Times. Author Andrew Jack notes that while malaria has attracted vast amounts of funds and attention, this will largely be pointless if the root causes are not addressed.
Malaria was until recently present throughout the world, yet now 108 countries can claim to be malaria-free, the article explains. In these countries the roots were tackled, mainly due to economic growth.
The article warns that the politicisation and sudden expansion of anti-malaria efforts can mean resources are “misspent while bringing unintended consequences.”
Bed-nets, for example, may not be a long term solution. If malaria persists, will wealthy governments simply continue to donate billions of dollars’ worth of more nets?
But most importantly, emphasis must be placed on measuring outcomes, rather than assuming inputs are automatically A Good Thing.
‘Too many groups hold themselves accountable by “process indicators” such as the number of nets delivered’, continues Jack, ‘rather than the ultimate impact they are having on mortality and morbidity.’
World Malaria Day always creates a lot of noise. Let’s make sure we see through the hype, and observe the most effective ways for people to overcome this curable disease.