Bombastic headlines smatter the press declaring a $3 billion “boost” for fighting malaria. These funds were yesterday announced in New York by a consortium promoted by “World Leaders” like the UK’s Gordon Brown and, of course, the ubiquitous rock star Bono.
As their press release states, this equates to “record billions”, the intention of which is to “reduce malaria deaths in Africa to near zero by 2015”.
And so the “burst of rapid, concerted action” called for by Brown’s predecessor, Tony Blair, in a newspaper article this week has been satisfied.
But will these huge sums really eradicate malaria in Africa?
Since its inception in 2002, the Global Fund had (before this week) already approved over $2.4 billion for tackling malaria. Over $600m per annum has been spent purely by donor agencies on fighting malaria in Africa.
This “boost” is therefore merely the latest in a string of boosts, yet another spin on “one more push”—and as malaria continues to plague much of Sub-Saharan Africa, the effectiveness of this approach is proving doubtful.
So how is malaria best defeated?
Until the twentieth century, malaria was common in Russia, the USA and Europe. The largest pandemic to date occurred in Russia in the 1920s. Yet the disease was overcome largely through economic development—people drained marshes, improved their buildings, and developed reliable and sustainable health systems. This was achieved through the economic growth of the nineteenth century, enabled by economic freedoms.
Africa, sadly, remains the least free region in the world—a fact confirmed this month by the World Bank’s Doing Business 2008 report. The report, however, does contain cause for optimism:
“Africa implemented more … reforms in 2007/08 than in any previous year covered”
And such economic reforms are reaping rewards:
“This focus on reform comes after several years of record economic growth in Africa. Annual growth has averaged nearly 6% in the past decade, thanks to better macroeconomic conditions and greater peace on the continent.”
This is, of course, excellent news for Africa and demonstrates hope that Africans will increasingly be allowed opportunities to prosper, enjoy economic growth and develop healthier living conditions.
In 2005, speaking on campaigns to send billions of dollars in “foreign aid” to African governments, Bono confessed:
“In a funny way, it's not even about Africa. It's about who we are, what reasons we have to get out of bed in the morning. And if you're a rich, spoiled rotten rock star, this is a very good reason to get out of bed in the morning and put your Catholic guilt to work”
As delighted as the CFD is to see Bono appeasing his “Catholic guilt”, with 90% of new malaria cases occurring in the continent, this very much is about Africa.
Delegates in New York can pat their backs as much as they like, but only Africa's own development can cure it from the entirely preventable scourge of malaria.