July 2001, I presented a paper at the WHO Africa Southern
African Malaria Control Conference, held in Victoria Falls,
Zimbabwe. The conference was attended by the ministers of
health from South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
Timothy Stamps, the Zimbabwean health minister spoke at
length of the link between poverty and malaria and discussed
how poverty and a lack of infrastructure is hampering the
country's ability to control the disease. All this is of
course true; malaria does hampers development and it keeps
poor people locked into poverty.
Zimbabweans are poor not just because of malaria, in fact
if malaria were the cause of their troubles, they would
be an awful lot better off! The Zimbabwean government, under
the direction of President Mugabe, has created the grinding
poverty that now ensures that over 60% of the population
is living below the poverty line.
the rule of law and showing scant regard for property rights,
the government has presided over the destruction of the
entire economy. People are unable to buy even the most basic
commodities and starvation is widespread and increasing.
This has little or nothing to do with malaria, Aids or any
other disease. It is not surprising that President Mugabe
is going to over ride patents and sanction the use of generics
- if he doesn't respect the rights of landowners (or any
political opposition) why should he care about the rights
of pharmaceutical companies?
will generics solve the problems of drug access in Zimbabwe?
The country has only 14 physicians per 100 000 people and
a crumbling health infrastructure. There is enormous dissatisfaction
within the public health system and physicians and nurses
seem as if Cipla, the Indian generics manufacturer, or any
other generics producer is going to provide the kind of
support necessary to ensure that the right drugs are delivered
with the appropriate support for physicians and patients.
This is the advantage of negotiating and cooperating with
the research based drug companies.
first, President Mugabe should start spending some money
on the fight against AIDS and stop buying himself and his
cronies new Mercedes Benz cars and Saville Row suits.
on this theme - Malaria keeps
people poor, but so does government