Monday, July 23, 2007

How A Former President Should Act

How much you wanna bet we'd never read a story like this about any former President named "Bush"?
DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Former President Bill Clinton launched a program on Sunday to make subsidized malaria drugs available in Tanzania in a test scheme that could serve as a blueprint for Africa as a whole.

The project will make life-saving ACT drugs available at 90 percent less than the current market price to a national drug wholesaler, which will then distribute them to rural shops.

Malaria, caused by a parasite carried by mosquitoes, kills up to 3 million people a year worldwide and makes 300 million seriously ill. Ninety percent of deaths are in Africa south of the Sahara, mostly among young children.

Many of those lives could be saved with modern artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) drugs, which are far more effective than older treatments such as chloroquine. But a price of up to $8 to $10 per treatment puts them out of reach for many people.
Lest you think this is your run-of-the-mill project, let's take a look at malaria in Africa:
This year malaria will strike up to a half billion people. At least a million will die, most of them under age five, the vast majority living in Africa.[...]

Four species of malaria parasites routinely infect humans; the most virulent, by far, is Plasmodium falciparum. About half of all malaria cases worldwide are caused by falciparum, and 95 percent of the deaths. It's the only form of malaria that can attack the brain. And it can do so with extreme speed—few infectious agents can overwhelm the body as swiftly as falciparum. An African youth can be happily playing soccer in the morning and dead of falciparum malaria that night.

Falciparum is a major reason nearly 20 percent of all Zambian babies do not live to see their fifth birthday. Older children and adults, too, catch the disease—pregnant women are especially prone—but most have developed just enough immunity to fight the parasites to a stalemate, though untreated malaria can persist for years, the fevers fading in and out. There are times when it seems that everyone in Zambia is debilitated to some degree by malaria; many have had it a dozen or more times. No surprise that the nation remains one of the poorest in the world: A country's economic health has little chance of improving until its physical health is revitalized.
Pretty important stuff, to be sure. And it's not like the countries of Africa aren't trying to fight back, but between malaria and AIDS, they run out of resources awfully fast, despite hundreds of millions of dollars in private aid as well as billions in foreign aid.

Now, Big Dog stood in a field outside Dar-Es-Salaam to make this announcement yesterday, pointedly reminding the world of two things: one, that Al Qaeda had destoryed the US embassy there on his watch, yet he felt safe enough to show up in person, and two, that President Bush couldn't even be bothered to slog through the swamps created after hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Or as Kanye West put it, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

There's a foreign policy point to be made here, as well. In the vacuum created by the twin monstrosities o f AIDS and malaria in Africa, the single most Muslim continent on the planet, we could go a long way to engendering both Muslim good will and the world's respect by focusing much more of our resources on solving malaria. George Bush may not care about black people, but America does.

Ways You Can Help