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Commentary

Sick at the World Bank
Roger Bate, AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, 7-7-06

Bate investigates the failings of the World Bank in treating malaria. He cites a recent article that he coauthored in the medical journal, Lancet, that found that the World Bank failed to properly treat millions of victims of malaria, wasting money and lives in the process.

Six years ago, the Bank made a promise to Africa's heads of state that it would expedite $300—500 million to control malaria on their home continent. It was a landmark promise, but one that today the Bank admits it never honored. Some years and millions of lost lives later, the Bank is keen to get past that failure, and has launched another malaria plan, entailing $250—500 million (i.e. less money) of its own budget.

But the Bank's past record suggests that its new commitment should not be welcomed. The Bank has played fast and loose with science, which is directly traceable to actions that, lamentably, are killing people.

Our research in The Lancet found that the Bank used falsified epidemiological statistics in Brazil, claiming to have reduced malaria cases deeply from a project lasting from 1989 to 1996, but what the Bank claims to be its success in achieving a deep reduction of malaria cases in the final year of its Brazil project (1996) is actually caused by the Bank stopping to count malaria cases after August of year (and normally of course, one counts the whole year, all 12 months). The partial–year counting is admitted in a 1997 document in the Bank’s archives, but inexplicably, it was hushed up when the Bank later published a peer–reviewed paper for a scientific journal, trumpeting its success.

So far, the Bank has stood by its lie about its activities in Brazil, and has refused to withdraw the paper its staff authored and which contain the false statistics.



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