In Africa, more than one person per minute dies due to malaria. Yet a combination of environmentalists, United Nations agencies, the World Bank, and big business interests has prevented the use of the chemical that helped eradicate malaria in the U.S. and Europe, namely DDT.
This year, American Idol stepped into the battle against malaria. Unfortunately, as Phillip Coticelli explains, its focus too has been misguided. The show has donated about $6 million to an outfit called Nothing But Nets, which fights malaria in Africa by providing insecticide-treated nets to place over beds. But according to Coticelli, the efficacy of these nets is quite overrated. Indoor residual spraying with insecticides (including DDT) that kill or repel malaria-carrying mosquitoes holds greater promise. Thus, he argues, the money, much of which is apparently languishing anyway, should be used to build spraying programs and to provide the laboratory capacity needed in order to monitor disease.
This appears to be one of those cases when raising money for a good cause proved easier than causing the money to be used for good.
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