26 April 2011

Yesterday New Zealand and Australia commemorated ANZAC day. 25 April is also United Nations World Malaria Day. The focus is action to reduce the impact of malaria; key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, agreed by all UN Member States.

The good intentions of many have been undermined by an ethical breakdown in several international organisations. In January Associated Press reported that more than 65% some UN grants disappeared through fraud. The World Bank is another agency where efforts to combat malaria have been corrupted.

In 1998 the Bank initiated a campaign to ‘roll back malaria’. It pledged US$500 million for malaria treatment. But a Canadian academic’s research published in the Lancet in 2005 showed that the Bank was either falsifying, or at best manipulating data about its activities. In Brazil where malaria increased, despite the Bank’s campaign, data was published showing a decrease in the incidence of malaria. The failure was covered up by false accounting.

“Some of the claims made by the Bank during this period, even for the untrained eye, were simply unbelievable. One report stated that Kenya had 135 malaria deaths in 2002, and Iran had 1•4 million malaria deaths in 2003 when Kenya was one of the world’s most malarious countries and Iran is one of the least.”

A review resulting from the Lancet article found that “corruption and fraud was rife within the Bank’s AIDS, child health and malaria programmes. Pharmaceutical companies paid by the bank were found to have been complicit in maintaining artificially high prices for their drugs during the tendering process and providing non-functioning mosquito nets.” The malaria programme was overhauled because of these ‘unacceptable levels of fraud and corruption’.

This year, Bono and other celebrities launched a Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as a response to repeated failures of UN services.
The 2010 World Malaria Report data includes:
• more than 236 million “suspected” malaria cases worldwide, more than half in south-east Asia
• more than 81 million “probable and confirmed” malaria cases, with nearly 69 million in Africa
• the highest incidence was 9.8 million cases in Uganda and 8.1 million in Kenya.