Fake Drugs and Fake Statistics: Which Way for Africa?
Reports that the use of counterfeit drugs is on the rise in Africa (where more than 30% of the medicines on sale are fake and kill 700 000 Africans annually) coupled with alarming reports on the prevalence of disease on the continent should send Africa’s governments and health experts back to the drawing table.
|Assorted drugs Photo:courtesy|
WHO for example, in The African Regional Health Report: The Health of the People holds that of the 20 countries with the highest maternal mortality ratios worldwide, 19 are in Africa. The report also adds that non-communicable diseases, such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes are on the rise and more than 90% of the estimated 300–500 million malaria cases that occur worldwide every year are in Africa.
The fact that developed countries have conquered the traditional infectious and parasitic diseases and are now dealing with the ‘diseases of affluence’ while Africa is still grappling with both, should not be a justification for Africa’s 'Good Samaritans' to paint gross pictures of the continent while they prey on the continent’s plight.
USAID for example, allegedly mismanaged a multi-million project in Afghanistan so badly that millions disappeared without a trace. The World Bank’s own evaluation unit castigated them for spending a paltry sum on TB, despite the huge mortality from this disease. The World Bank also cut nutritional projects in half, despite the huge benefits from cheap and effective nutritional supplements for children so malnourished. The World Health Organization on the other hand faked malaria statistics to make false claims of victories against malaria.
Besieged by fake drugs (projected to garner US$75 billion in revenues by 2010) and fake statistics, health planning in Africa is bound to be disoriented. Africa ought to proactively establish mechanisms to measure incidences of disease and avoid depending on externally generated reports that serve interest groups outside Africa.
That notwithstanding, Africa must understand that disease leads to loss of working hours; diversion of resources to non productive activities and depletion of investments. This consequently deals a bitter blow to the economy. It is paramount that the continent confronts the issue of health infrastructure. This will entail removal of punitive tariffs and taxes on medicines, motivating entrepreneurs in the health sector and enforcing international standards.
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