Sluggish approvals blocking Africans' access to bed nets

Emma Marris | 01 Jun 2007
Nature Medicine
In the fight against malaria, long-lasting insecticidal bed nets—made from polyester or plastic and treated with insecticides—are a favorite tool. Because they can be washed and reused for years, donors such as the Roll Back Malaria Partnership push for their use.

But the nets are not blanketing Africa as efficiently as they could, thanks to a bottleneck of sluggish evaluation at the World Health Organization (WHO), says Africa Fighting Malaria (AFM), a South African advocacy organization. Best known for supporting the indoor spraying of the controversial pesticide DDT, AFM on 23 April released a report on the WHO's Pesticide Evaluation Scheme (WHOPES)...

Because many governments and donor groups only buy WHOPES-recommended nets, the lengthy process of evaluation is stifling competition and handicapping the fight against malaria, says Philip Coticelli, AFM's research and communications manager. "I think it has real implications in cost effectiveness and use of public funds going back years," he says.

AFM recommends that the evaluation time be cut down to six months, in part by making some decisions outside the organization's annual meetings. "WHOPES should meet more than once a year or join the twenty-first century and hold teleconferences when data are ready for review," Coticelli says...

Meanwhile, public requests for bids put out by governments and organizations sometimes seem to be tailor-written for PermaNet.

"It is true that a number of programs or institutional buyers, based on technical information in the scientific community, decided that they wanted only one of these technologies, and it has tended to create a kind of monopoly," says Guillet. "But I think that this is more or less a thing of the past."

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"Sluggish approvals blocking Africans' access to bed nets," Nature Medicine, Emma Marris, June 1, 2007.