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Commentary

A Malaria Success
The New York Times, 3-27-05

The Times chronicles one of the few programs to successfully blend economic development and health care infrastructure in Africa.

In 1998, the Australia-based mining company BHP Billiton began building a huge-aluminum smelter outside Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. The company knew that malaria plagued the region. It gave all its workers mosquito nets and free medicine, and sprayed the construction site and workers houses with insecticide. Nevertheless, during the first two years of construction there were 6,000 cases of malaria, and at least 13 contractors died. To deal with the problem, the company did something extraordinary. It joined an effort by South Africa, Mozambique, and Swaziland to eradicate malaria in a swath of the three countries measuring more than 40,000 square miles.

In this region, called the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative, employed insecticide spraying, disease surveillance, and state of the art treatment to control the mosquito borne disease. The result was that “malaria incidence dropped in one South African province by 96 percent.” The national governments involved encouraged these efforts—“probably the best antimalaria program in the world”—not only to save lives but to “encourage tourism and foreign investment.” Other governments and international agencies that are serious about improving African health care should push for more public-private ventures like this one that link doing-well with the desire to do good.



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