Tropical diseases: Experts criticize the World Bank's malaria program

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Tropical diseases: Experts criticize the World Bank's malaria program
Tropical diseases: Experts criticize the World Bank's malaria program

Experts criticize World Bank malaria program


The World Bank's strategy to combat malaria has been heavily criticized. On "Africa Malaria Day", April 25, a total of 13 international he alth experts accused the initiators of the Global Strategy & Booster Program (GSBR), among other things, of glossing over statistics, feigning success and supporting outdated treatment methods against the advice of medical experts [1]. The World Bank contradicts these allegations [2].

False promises of financing …

The bank is the sponsor of the GSBR, which was launched in 2005 to revitalize the international cooperation program Roll Back Malaria (RBM). The initiators and partners wanted to make "between 500 million and one billion US dollars" available to combat the world's most important tropical disease.

But even this number is questioned by the critics. They point out that the RBM – an international alliance of over 90 organizations including WHO and UNICEF – which was set up eight years ago for Africa alone, had promised 300 to 500 million to contain the malaria epidemic for Africa alone. However, this sum was never actually made available, let alone spent. Rather, the financial assurances have been revised downwards over the years. Last year, critics bemoaned the failings of RBM, which initially set itself the goal of halving malaria deaths by 2010.

… statistical errors …

The critics now also consider some of the success reports published by the World Bank to be false. The Bank has observed a sharp drop in malaria cases in regions of Brazil and India where control programs have been implemented since 1996. According to the critical study, however, official statistical analyzes by the governments of these countries sometimes deviate significantly from the World Bank figures. In India, according to official government statistics, there were even more cases of malaria between 2002 and 2004. According to the lead author of the review, Amir Attaran from the University of Ottawa, proven statistical errors in the World Bank data would usually gloss over the success of the fight.

In a statement, the World Bank authors accuse the critics of not having analyzed the figures comprehensively.

… and obsolete treatments?

Contrary to WHO guidelines, the World Bank also used the malaria drug chloroquine in regions where it was already ineffective due to parasite resistance, according to another criticism of the study.1.8 million dollars were raised for this alone.

The World Bank countered that it only administered chloroquine alongside other drugs in regions where this combination treatment was still effective.

Future organization disputed

The World Bank has now completely dissolved its malaria expert team, which originally consisted of seven specialists, according to the critics. Attaran and his co-authors would like to see the funds promised by the World Bank managed by an independent body. This body should limit the role of the bank to that of pure financier.

The World Bank, on the other hand, emphasizes that groups in 13 countries are working on malaria programs for them. The bank is "committed to the success of its malaria program" and wants to continue to be held responsible for success and failure. For this purpose, "tailor-made monitoring and evaluation measures" are to be used in all World Bank-financed malaria programs.

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