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Public Health Experts Criticize World Bank on Malaria Efforts

I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Development Report.

A year ago, the World Bank announced a new program to control malaria in Africa and Southeast Asia. It launched the Global Strategy and Booster Program in April of two thousand five on Africa Malaria Day.

The five-year plan calls for expanded use of medicines and preventions like bed nets treated with insect poisons. Public health experts say mosquitoes spread as many as five hundred million cases of malaria each year.

Now, thirteen of those experts in North America, Africa and Europe have criticized the World Bank for its history on the disease. Their criticism appeared in the medical publication the Lancet.

They accuse the World Bank of wasting money on ineffective medicines. They say claims of "success stories" in India and Brazil are wrong. And they accuse the bank of false claims about increased spending in Africa in the past five years.

Amir Attaran at the University of Ottawa in Canada and the other experts call on the World Bank to close down its malaria projects. They say the bank should instead finance groups that are better able to save lives quickly.

The Lancet published a reaction from World Bank officials, led by Jean-Louis Sarbib. The officials call the financial reporting accusations untrue. And they use evidence from India to dispute the accusations about treatments.

They say the bank is basing drug treatment policies on differences in the disease within the country. They say a one-size-fits-all policy would not work there.

The statement says malaria control efforts have been successful in parts of Brazil, Eritrea, India and Vietnam. But it also says that the bank's overall efforts in the past did not have enough money or people. The officials say the bank has learned from the past years. They call the new plan "results-driven."

Malaria kills more than one million people each year, mostly young children in Africa. The Abuja declaration of two thousand calls for a fifty percent cut in malaria deaths in Africa by two thousand ten. A Lancet editorial says that if the World Bank is serious about being judged on results, then this is a chance for cost-effective action.

In economic terms, the disease costs an estimated twelve thousand million dollars a year of lost productivity in Africa alone.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. Read and listen to our reports at I’m Steve Ember.