x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Malaria's menace

There is still a long way to go in the essential struggle to devise effective ways to fight malaria.

Today around the world, about 2,000 people will die of malaria. The toll was the same yesterday, and will be the same tomorrow. So far the world's best public-health brainpower, and billions of dollars, have not been able to defeat the mosquito-borne disease. We have to keep trying.

The latest efforts include Affordable Medicines Facility - Malaria (known as AMFm) a programme distributing antimalarial drugs via the free market at low, subsidised prices. But AMFm's $463 million (Dh1.7 billion) pilot project has proved sadly inconclusive, leading to renewed debate about how to fight this scourge. Mosquito nets treated with insecticide are cheaper than pills, and easier to deliver, but nobody can live life under a net. The sale of pills at very low prices, however, has not guaranteed treatment to those who need it most.

Delivering any public health programme to the world's poorest peoples - also usually the sickest - is an intractable challenge. Extreme poverty is often a result of poor governance, or none; in such places even the biggest NGOs have limited reach. Even near-giveaway prices are not proving as effective as had been hoped. Experts will now assess the pilot programme's results, and try to improve it. There's got to be a way.