Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest burden of malaria sickness and death. In fact, 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur in Africa according to the World Health Organization. Children under the age of five are particularly susceptible of dying from malaria and adults can be completely debilitated by the infectious disease as it zaps their energy little by little for weeks. It is important, then, that those who live in malaria prone areas have the medicinal options needed to fight off the disease.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and New York University business schools have written a recent paper showing that more donor funding from U.S. multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as well as from foundations like the Clinton Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are critical to keeping the price of malaria drugs low for poor people to afford. Buying these Artemisinin Combination Therapies (ACTs) is literally a matter between life and death.
Pharmaceutical company Novartis, for example, in partnership with Malaria No More donates millions of doses of coartem for free to save the lives of children, but this is not the case across the board. In fact, in most sub-Saharan African countries, malaria patients get their treatments from the private sector. Some of those malaria pills are little more than counterfeit drugs causing many countries to require numerical codes that can be verified via mobile phones to authenticate the drugs.
While the private sector can dupe some unsuspecting buyers — though not always — into buying inferior drugs, when the NGOs provide quality medicines, transparency and trust in the drugs are apparent as well as lower medicinal costs. Additionally, NGOs and foundations can better distribute and finance malaria medicines by looking at the shelf life of malaria medicines and subsidizing purchases for long shelf life drugs as opposed to subsidizing sales for short shelf life drugs, the researchers argue.
“The sales subsidy becomes more attractive for perishable products because you don’t have to subsidize a purchased product that doesn’t sell,” says Terry Taylor associate professor, UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
UN Photo/Ramadan Mohamed Hassan