Experts Accuse World Bank of Lying About Malaria Efforts

Experts Accuse World Bank of Lying About Malaria Efforts

Thirteen of the leading malaria experts in the world are accusing the World Bank of lying about its efforts to fight malaria:

Today, 13 malaria specialists from around the world accuse the World Bank of reneging on its promise to spend at least $300m on malaria control in Africa.

They say much of its spending from 2000 to 2005 has been concealed, but the available figures suggest it has spent less than half the amount pledged.

They allege the Bank has cut its malaria staff from seven to zero, exaggerated the success of its projects and is continuing to fund “clinically obsolete treatments”.

They demand an independent inquiry into the mistakes made and say the World Bank should wind down its malaria projects and allocate $1bn to other organisations with greater expertise, such as the UN Global Fund for Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Writing in the online edition of The Lancet, the authors, led by Professor Amir Attaran, a lawyer and malaria specialist from Ottawa University, say they made repeated attempts to raise their concerns with the Bank but were refused a meeting.

“We therefore introduce our recommendations here, for concerned citizens to contact their elected representatives and urge the necessary changes on the Bank,” they write.

Although the World Bank rejects the charges, the evidence seems to support the experts:

Eight years ago the World Bank, with the World Health Organisation and the UN Global Fund, launched the Roll Back Malaria programme to halve malaria deaths by 2010.

Instead, the toll has risen by at least a quarter and in some areas by 50 per cent.

[snip]

At a meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2000, at which 53 African heads pledged to halve deaths from malaria by 2010, the World Bank made an “unprecedented” pledge to spend US$300m- US$500m to fight the disease in Africa.

But its most recent accounts published in April 2005, show that from 2000 to 2005, the Bank committed “about $100 – 150 million in earmarked funds for malaria control” worldwide, plus an unspecified amount in non-earmarked funds.

“No one knows how much money the Bank actually disbursed, but even if it disbursed every dollar that it earmarked, the total is still very much less than the $300m-500m for Africa alone,” the authors write.

In India, the authors allege that on five occasions in 2004, the Bank approved chloroquine for treating malaria, despite knowing it was ineffective against resistant forms (caused by the plasmodium falciparum parasite).

“Had a doctor or pharmacist behaved as the Bank did, [they] would be condemned and possibly sued for medical malpractice,” they write.

Malaria kills more than 1,000,000 people per year, 90% of whom are children. More than 500,000,000 people have the disease — and the infection rate is on the rise world-wide.

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Patrick S. O'Donnell
Patrick S. O'Donnell

Quite interesting and disturbing. I recently read a couple of essays that had prompted me to believe the Bank was slowly but surely evolving in the right direction (that belief may still be true): first, ‘The World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the environmental social movement’ in Robert O’Brien, et al., eds. Contesting Global Governance: Multilateral Economic Institutions and Global Social Movements (2000), and Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, ‘The World Bank Inspection Panel: About Public Participation and Dispute Settlement,’ in Tullio Treves, et al., eds. Civil Society, International Courts and Compliance Bodies (2005). I wonder what role, if any, its (keep in mind the Bank is made up of five institutions) Inspection Panel had to play here, as I did not notice any mention of it in the Lancet article. The procedures of the Panel are said to rest on ‘concepts of public participation, transparency, and accountability,’ enabling ‘groups of persons affected by a Bank-financed project to sieze the Panel in order to request that the Organization assess, and even correct, its own behaviour.’ Boisson de Chazournes goes as far as to conclude that ‘The Panel’s experience (23 claims have been declared eligible [as of 17 February 2004; out… Read more »