NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Fighting the Major Diseases of Africa

February 21, 2012

The U.S. federal government, long one of the greatest financial supporters of disease eradication efforts in Africa, is likely to implement significant budget cuts over the course of the next few years.  In this process, foreign aid for disease treatment and prevention initiatives will likely face cutbacks.  Meanwhile, African countries (specifically Nigeria and the Congo) will continue to fight an uphill battle against malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, says Roger Bate, the Legatum Fellow in Global Prosperity at the American Enterprise Institute.

These countries are particularly afflicted with diseases that have been largely controlled in the developed world for a number of reasons:

  • Poverty enhances susceptibility to fatal diseases by leaving people malnourished and drinking unclean water.
  • Additionally, inadequate access to reliable health networks, including clinics and prescription drugs, hinders prevention and detection efforts.
  • Political instability and warfare have limited development and further spread poverty, compounding its effects.

Given this status quo, many argue that foreign intervention in the fight against these diseases will be necessary to combat their deadly effects.  This led to a renaissance of donations from Western countries in the late 1990s and 2000s.

  • A report estimates that $19 million was allocated globally for fighting malaria in 1999, but by 2002 the figure had reached $418.5 million and increased by another $1.4 billion by 2009.
  • Similarly, funding for HIV/AIDS prevention skyrocketed from a meager $215 million in 1999 to nearly $1.2 billion by 2002 and $6.8 billion by 2009.

However, as budget cuts loom for many of these donor nations, it is important to consider how these efforts can be reformed to make them more effective and efficient.

  • Increase oversight over organizations that continue to disperse funds to limit corruption.
  • Do not encourage local production of medicine at the expense of quality control.
  • Operate in fewer countries, specifically those where disease can be most easily combatted.
  • Focus on low-hanging fruit, such as tuberculosis (which is much cheaper to combat).

Source: Roger Bate, "Fighting the Major Diseases of Africa: Sustaining the Gains of the Last Decade," American Enterprise Institute, February 2012.

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