Accuracy in Media

President Bush yesterday called on business, government and religious organizations to band together to eliminate malaria which kills two African children every minute.
At the same time though Bush missed a huge opportunity to endorse the most effective method of combating the dreaded disease by endorsing the use of inexpensive bed nets over inside spraying of DDT.

The President and First Lady said that for just $10 and individual can buy a net and save a life.  That’s actually quite a bit more than what Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight Aids figures they should cost.  His estimate is closer to $5-$6 per net.  It isn’t clear where the $10 figure came from unless it just sounds better than $5. 

What is even more baffling is why the President would make the bed nets such a central focus of his plan to fight malaria.  Roger Bate, head of Africa Fighting Malaria was quoted in The Washington Times as saying “Research done last summer by [the U.S. Agency for International Development] in Togo and Zambia found that the bed nets had been distributed to 90 percent of the homes but only hung up in 70 percent,”

On the night of the survey only 56% of the nets were in use minimizing the effectiveness of such a strategy. 

According to Clive Schiff a professor at Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, nets can get torn and mosquitoes can develop resistance to the chemicals on the nets rendering them ineffective.  Schiff noted that in 2002 a South African malaria outbreak was quelled by indoor spraying. 

Unfortunately the administration while pledging $1.2 billion to fight malaria has chosen to go the politically correct route of bed nets. Spraying is a part of their program but only more as a last resort than a first strike.  It would seem to be more prudent to spend a little more on the spraying program which only needs t be done once a year rather than constantly replace torn nets or badger people to use them.

On the other hand this strategy may get Bush a photo op with Angelina Jolie who pledged $10,000 in 2005 for bed nets.  That might raise his poll ratings. 

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