Good News on Malaria Control; August 2009; Scientific American Magazine; by Jeffrey D. Sachs; 1 Page(s)
A persistent question about sustainable development is how to help the world's poorest people. Their incomes are so low that they lack access to the most basic goods and services: adequate nutrition, safe drinking water, sanitation and vital health interventions. One strategy is to provide targeted financial support to help the poor to meet their basic needs and thereby to escape from the poverty trap. My colleagues and I have calculated that the cost of ensuring basic lifesaving health coverage for the world's poor would be around 0.1 percent of gross national product of the high-income countries.
One example of such targeted aid is a mass free distribution of antimalaria bed nets to people living in impoverished malarious regions of Africa. Each of these long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs) costs only about $10 to produce, transport and distribute to households in rural Africa. Because the nets last for five years and two children typically sleep under each net, the cost per child a year is a mere $0.50. Even at this remarkably low cost, however, some critics have opposed such an approach. They have claimed that free nets would "go missing" in large numbers because of waste by recipients and others in the supply chain who did not properly value them. These critics' preferred solution is market sales of nets at a discount, on the grounds that even a small price would encourage more efficient use of the nets.