Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Dear Mr Blair, here is some advice

Reaction to the PM’s latest wheeze has been mixed. Njongonkulu Ndungane, the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town has welcomed it. SecGen Kofi Annan (father of Kojo) has clearly welcomed it because it will provide him with yet another opportunity to travel round, sit in meetings and pontificate (and who knows, there might be another medal of achievement at the end of it).

Sir Bob Geldof is very happy about it, as he, too, will be given extra publicity and a chance to pontificate. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has recently been prevented from becoming president-for-life, is equally happy. He will be one of the panellists.

Other agencies, possibly because they were not asked, are less happy and are muttering about buck passing and backsliding.

So, what’s this all about? Well, a year or so on from G-8 and Live8 and any other 8 you might care to think of, nothing much has happened about reducing poverty in Africa. Of course, some of us have always maintained that “Make Poverty History” is considerably less useful than the alternative proposed by us: “Make Stupidity History”.

So, the Prime Minister has decided to set up a new panel of world leaders to monitor the aid given to African countries. It is not entirely clear whether its effectiveness will be monitored as well or merely the amount of money that is being shelled out, the usual criterion for much of aid giving as Richard Tren, the Director of Africa Fights Malaria said at a recent seminar he gave at the International Policy Network in London.

I shall do a more detailed posting on the seminar and Richard Tren’s account of the past, present and possible future of the war against malaria.

In the meantime, let it never be said that this blog is merely negative; that we criticize politicians and their activity, without offering positive suggestions. Here is one for Mr Blair, who, we assume, is genuinely worried about conditions in Africa.

Forget about panels and world leaders; ignore Bill Gates and his money; break off relations with Sir Bob Geldof and SecGen Kofi Annan. Concentrate on the following:

The number of malaria cases in Africa are not precisely known, though Bob Snow of the Wellcome Institute has estimated 600 million around the world, most of which are on that continent. Malaria hits children in particular and devastates whole communities. It reduces the African economy by something like 1.2 per cent of GDP – a large amount in the poor world.

It is an almost wholly preventable and curable disease and the prevention will cost us nothing or next to nothing.

Richard Tren pointed out that after a great deal of campaigning by Africans and others various organizations like USAID and WHO have changed their attitudes to controlled domestic spraying with DDT and other pesticides. The one organization that is out of step and refuses to acknowledge recent medical and scientific work is the EU.

The EU has huge powers as donor and economic partner of African countries. It is using those powers for ill purposes. Instead of helping the countries that are desperately fighting this scourge, the EU and, yes, we are part of this nasty conspiracy against African people, is trying to prevent routine use of domestic spraying, which has been effective for decades in prevention of malaria.

May we humbly suggest to Mr Blair that he should use what influence he has to change the EU’s attitudes. And if he cannot do so, to proclaim that Britain will not abide by this senseless, unscientific, disgraceful behaviour.


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