Sen Tom Coburn's Letter to the WSJ

Senator Tom Coburn | 28 Aug 2006
US Congress

Jason Riley correctly highlights the human and economic catastrophe that is malaria. Privately funded endeavors described by Mr. Riley are critical to saving lives around the world and I welcome and encourage more private and innovative philanthropy. Americans are also supporting billions of dollars of publicly funded anti-malaria programs through both bilateral programs and multilateral programs. Those concerned about children and pregnant moms suffering and dying from malaria should expect that agencies spending U.S. dollars will achieve results, as measured by reductions in deaths and sickness.

Congress and President Bush have worked together to ensure improved measurement of malaria control programs and greater accountability and transparency in these programs. As a result of congressional demands for "sunshine," the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) malaria budget was exposed as diluted and ineffective. That transparency led to encouraging reforms. President Bush and USAID should now be commended for running a program that is both transparent and strategic, including the dramatic redirection of funds to effective malaria prevention programs, such as indoor spraying with insecticides and effective new malaria therapies.

However, challenges remain at other major development agencies, such as the World Bank, which receives $1 billion from U.S. taxpayers and has been criticized by malaria scientists for its failing malaria programs. Americans also contribute more than $5 billion annually to the U.N. system, including UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO has new leadership on malaria, Dr. Arata Kochi, who is finally making key reforms to that troubled and failing program. But his encouraging start could be threatened by entrenched resistance to change in many quarters of the Geneva bureaucracy.

Tom Coburn, M.D. (R., Okla.)
Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security
Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs