'AFRICA MALARIA DAY: Why Donor Agencies are doing more harm than good'

April 17 2003 -- JOHANNESBURG As Africans mark Africa Malaria Day on 25 April, their leaders and donor agencies may be taking actions that threaten to hamper, rather than help, the fight against this deadly disease.

Though malaria is a preventable and treatable disease, it still claims more than 1 million African lives every year.

Over 3 years ago, African head of states signed the Abuja Declaration, vowing to reduce malaria cases by 50% by 2010 and to eliminate all taxes on insecticide treated bed nets (ITNs) and drugs. Yet 26 countries still tax ITNs and other essential healthcare inputs[1] . According to Richard Tren, director of Africa Fighting Malaria, "The requests for aid to fight malaria ring hollow when African governments continue to tax these inputs"

Misguided donor agency policies also hinder prevention efforts by discouraging DDT use.

Most successful life saving programmes rely on indoor residual spraying (IRS) with insecticides, primarily using DDT. Extraordinary gains against malaria have been made in South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zambia. In parts of South Africa, malaria cases have decreased by around 80% in 1 year[2] . On the Zambian Copperbelt, malaria cases have been reduced by 50% in 1 year and malaria deaths have been reduced to zero[3] . Private funding has also greatly contributed to the success of the programmes, particularly in Zambia.

Despite the proven success of IRS and of DDT, no donor agency will fund these tools, in the mistaken belief that they are somehow environmentally unsustainable, preferring to fund only ITNs. Tren argues that, "By caving in to the unscientific claims of local environment pressure groups, donor agencies are greatly undermining the fight against malaria, ensuring increased mortality and morbidity from the disease and reducing the chances of successful development. Donors should decide if they are going to save lives or please Green groups - they can't do both."


Richard Tren, +27 11 884 9578, or email,
Roger Bate, 202-431 5635, or email;


[1] See for more information on the countries that have failed to comply with the Abuja Declaration
[2] As part of the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative, South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique have coordinated their malaria control efforts to great success.
[3] See Sharp et al. (2002), "Malaria control by residual insecticide spraying in Chingola and Chililabombwe, Copperbelt Province, Zambia, Tropical Medicine and International Health, Vol 7, No. 9, Sept 2002.