Douwe Osinga's Blog: Evil Bill strikes again

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Evil Bill strikes again

If ten 747s packed with young children would crash into the Kilomanjaro every day, you'd think people would notice and try to do something about it. Of course there are no crashing 747s, just Malaria killing 3000 children a day. That's why people don't notice. Still, a million dead children a year, it is a lot.

Bill Gates, an evil man, if you are to believe what you generally read on the Internet, donated 168 million dollar to fight malaria, single handedly doubling the global budget. That's why we call Bill evil. Before anybody says, 'well, but he has a lot of money, so he should', do realize that it is about 3% of his net worth. How many people donate 3% of their net worth to fight malaria?

Malaria is a good cause to give to. Not only because of the dying children, but also because there are good reasons to think a vaccin is within reach, almost all malaria can be cured and most of it can be avoided. Better and cheaper drugs are of course always needed. So why does the world spend less on Malaria research than the cost of one, be it nice, cruise ship?

Because there is no market of course. There are only two parties interested in malaria drugs that can actually pay something for it: tourists and the american army. But tourists only want protection for the duration of their tropical adventure, so Lariam is good enough. The US Army is interested in case a malaria invested country needs a regime change. Without GI Joe and Evil Bill, malaria research would be almost non-existent.

If you take into consideration that third world aid doesn't work, a country like the Netherlands could do worse than to spend a large chunk of its anual aid budget on malaria research. Or put a prize on it. The first company to find a vaccin gets the jackpot (currently our country spend 4.4 billion euro on aid a year, 10% in the jackpot?).