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Opinions: Learning To Live With Malaria; U.S. Food Aid Policy; Foreign Aid Reform

Adapting To Malaria, Rather Than Eradicating It, Might Lead To Significant Gains

Recent “discoveries of a possible wild reservoir for humankind’s most malignant malaria, some 130 years after the discovery of the malaria parasite, could mean that it will be impossible to eradicate malaria,” Sonia Shah, the author of “The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years,” observes in an International Herald Tribune opinion piece. She highlights efforts “to find a simple, permanent cure,” including by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and ExxonMobil, and writes that the new findings “challenge this dream … because eradicating a disease is, in several important respects, a goal diametrically opposed to controlling one.” According to Shah, “[i]f eradication campaigns fail, resources and political capital will have been lavished on the lowest priority areas with the lightest burdens.”

“Successfully eradicating malaria would be a tremendous gain for the health of millions. … But learning to live with malaria, forever, could lead to gains. While eradication requires abrupt interventions to break the cycle of transmission, sustained just long enough for the parasite to die out, learning to live with malaria means working to permanently sever the connections between mosquitoes and humans,” she writes.

Living with malaria would mean “providing bed nets and cheap drugs in the short term, and building level roads, better drainage, safe water systems and mosquito-proof housing in the long term,” Shah writes, before concluding: “At which point, it may not matter how many wild species carry the disease, because humans will be largely malaria-free” (10/8).

U.S. Should Purchase Food Aid From Local Farmers In Africa

In a Richmond County Daily Journal opinion piece, Yifat Susskind, the policy and communications director of MADRE: Demanding Rights, Resources and Results for Women Worldwide, argues that “the U.S. should buy food aid crops directly from local farmers in Africa.”

“When the U.N. World Food Program did this, they were able to obtain 75 percent more corn to feed hungry families than when they purchased grain from factory farms in the U.S. … Studies consistently show that when poor women gain access to money, they use it to provide food, healthcare and education for their children,” Susskind writes, adding that this approach should now be tried out in Sudan. He provides three reasons to support his argument, including the upcoming Sudanese referendum, which could be destabilizing. “At a time of impending crisis for Sudan, we can call for an improved U.S. food aid policy committed to buying local, sustainably grown crops from small-holder women farmers, giving them the resources they need to hold their communities together,” according to Susskind (10/7).

U.S. Must Reform Foreign Aid To Give Obama’s Global Development Strategy A Shot

In a Boston Globe opinion piece, Robert Rotberg of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, outlines President Barack Obama’s new global development strategy before observing: “Obama spoke about how Washington would alter its own global development strategy. But he said nothing about how those changes would be delivered. He did not promise to make USAID, the agency in the U.S. government that delivers most foreign assistance to developing nations, independent once again. … If Obama gives USAID back its independence, his new global initiative might just have a chance to work. Without that change, the likelihood is small, no matter how his new approach appeals to critics of foreign aid,” writes Rotberg.

Rotberg argues that the U.S. government should “stop lending to recipient countries” and “switch its foreign assistance to making grants.” According to Rotberg, conditions that allowed “deserving countries to borrow on generous terms to improve their prospects for growth … added to a poor nation’s debt burden.” A better approach “would be to make only grants and condition their renewal on accomplishing the goals of the grant.”

“As Obama said, we have a moral obligation to assist poor countries and peoples. Doing so also has a strategic benefit for our own security. But without serious reform, foreign assistance will continue to accomplish less than it should,” he concludes (10/3).