Aid or trade? And what to do about malaria?

There are more calls for more aid. A new UN report says rich nations like the US should more than double the amount of aid they give to poor nations:

“What we’re proposing is a strategy of investment to help empower the lives of very poor people that lack the tools and sometimes even the basic means to stay alive, much less be productive members of a fast-paced world economy,” said Professor Jeffrey Sachs, head of the U.N. anti-poverty effort and lead author of the report.

James Shikwati, of the African Resource Bank, thinks trade is what poor nations need more of:

Since independence Africa has invested too heavily in seeking donor aid, which has compromised African productivity. Our aim is to find homegrown solutions to the major problems afflicting Africa … It is now up to Africans to use trade to dismantle barriers and create a huge market for themselves. Trade will bring with it cultural exchange, knowledge, competition, productivity, peace and prosperity.

The UN report also brings renewed attention to malaria, which kills 3 million people per year, most of whom are African children. But what’s the best way to fight malaria? The UN report suggests bed nets, but James points me to this article that questions their effectiveness:

Although touted as the most affordable shield against malaria, the treated nets have now become a burden to thousands of families across the country, which religiously buy the products in the belief that they offer the best protection against the killer disease. Our investigations have revealed that some of the treated nets lose their potency just days after treatment …

Ron Bailey thinks bed nets might help, but notes that the UN report shies away from what might do the most good:

Bed nets can certainly be effective in helping to control malaria-carrying mosquitoes. But Sachs delicately overlooks an even cheaper way to control themââ?¬â??DDT. Bed nets protect only at night and only two people at a time …No one is advocating the return of DDT as an agricultural chemical. But spraying the inner walls of a house twice a year with the demonized pesticide protects a whole family from malaria-spreading mosquitoes all day all at once and will cause no harm to wildlife.

In an upcoming issue of Privatization Watch I interview James Shikwati about the perils of aid and the promise of trade. I’ll let you know when that issue is available online.