June 27, 2006

MALARIA: lessons from the TB struggle? Interesting article with this depressing passage:

The war on malaria — in theory more winnable than the war on AIDS because a cure exists — is instead being lost, Dr. Kochi says. In the 1960′s, malaria was considered potentially eradicable: DDT and chloroquine, a synthetic form of quinine, had been invented, and much of the tropics were under colonial rulers who, whatever their other faults, were good at killing mosquitoes.

Since then, DDT has been withdrawn because of its environmental damage, chloroquine and its successor, Fansidar, have become all but useless and the health systems in most of Africa and parts of Asia and Latin America have collapsed.

The body count is now at least one million a year, most of them children and pregnant women. There are 350 million cases of malaria each year; people may catch it repeatedly in hot seasons and be too weak to work, so it cripples rural economies.

The plan is to attack things differently, which seems like a good idea to me. Alas, though, there’s only so much you can do in the face of dreadful governments in the most affected areas. And that’s not a problem the WHO, or the UN, can solve. Indeed, it’s not a problem that the UN even wants to solve.