- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2000

African leaders and health experts meet today in Nigeria to begin a counterattack on malaria, which costs Africa more each year than all foreign aid combined, according to a new report.

"Africa's [gross domestic product] would be up to $100 billion greater this year if malaria had been eliminated years ago," said the report by Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs and others.

The report being released today was prepared by researchers at Harvard, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the World Health Organization.

It is the focus of the first world summit on malaria in Abuja, the Nigerian capital. Portions of the report were obtained by The Washington Times.

WHO chief Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland and other international organization chiefs and heads of state are asking the United States and other countries for $1 billion a year far more than currently provided to combat malaria, which kills 1 million Africans each year.

The new report highlights malaria's hidden cost the loss of work due to recurrent periods of fever and weakness which helps impoverish sub-Saharan Africa.

Other causes for African poverty are said to include the lack of accountable governments, illiteracy, lack of infrastructure, unfavorable terms of trade with the industrial nations and tribal, ethnic, civil and national conflicts.

According to Mr. Sachs, director of the Center for International Development at Harvard University, malaria obstructs overall economic development in Africa and contributed to the decline in gross domestic product (GDP) since 1990.

If malaria had been eliminated 35 years ago, when its causes, prevention and cures all became known, Africa's GDP would be up to 32 percent greater this year, the report said.

This would represent up to $100 billion added to Africa's current GDP of $300 billion an amount nearly five times greater than all development aid provided to Africa last year, the report said.

Each year, malaria slows economic growth in Africa by up to 1.3 percent. The benefits of malaria control are estimated at from $3 billion to $12 billion per year.

The heads of state of 20 African nations and the executive directors of the African Development Bank, World Bank, U.N. Development Program, UNICEF, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and WHO were expected to be present to hear the findings of the report today in Abuja.

Health experts plan to base their "Roll Back Malaria" campaign against the mosquito-borne disease by expanding the use of insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets. At present only 2 percent of African children use such bed nets.

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