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January 5, 2005
Kristof: Yes, We're Stingy -- And Full Of Ourselves

The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof channels his inner Jan Egeland and scolds us for being stingy in our assistance to poorer nations. Using both public and private aid, he lambastes the US as a "Land of Penny Pinchers":

The 150,000 or so fatalities from the tsunami are well within the margin of error for estimates of the number of deaths every year from malaria. Probably two million people die annually of malaria, most of them children and most in Africa, or maybe it's three million - we don't even know.

But the bottom line is that this month and every month, more people will die of malaria (165,000 or more) and AIDS (240,000) than died in the tsunamis, and almost as many will die because of diarrhea (140,000).

And that's where we're stingy.

Kristof points out that America spends 15 cents per day per person on official development aid -- a key qualifier -- and even with private development aid, that number only goes to 21 cents. As Kristof points out, that amounts to about a third of our daily soft-drink outlay. That puts us among the lower ranks of industrialized nations for development aid, although Kristof leaves our exact position murky.

However, that qualifier misses quite a few cents that we've spent over the past few decades. First, we've footed 25% of the bill for the United Nations, as well as absorbing all of the security costs and the land at Turtle Bay. Next, we've provided military security for Europe the past sixty years -- so much so that the Europeans (excluding the UK) were able to neglect their own military readiness in favor of social programs and foreign-aid handouts. We spend a fortune on defending some of the wealthiest countries in the world, and then they have the temerity to scold us for a lack of assistance?

Besides, the example that Kristof uses as a comparison to tsunami relief has a simple solution that the Left won't tolerate. He complains that the tsunami deaths equal that of the annual victims of malaria. After acknowledging that Americans see foreign aid as money "down the rathole", he says this:

One of the most unforgettable people I've met is Nhem Yen, a Cambodian grandmother whose daughter had just died of malaria, leaving two small children. So Nhem Yen was looking after her four children and two grandchildren, and she could afford only one mosquito net to protect them from malarial mosquitoes. Each night, she had to choose which of the six children would sleep under the net.

Do we really think that paying $5 for a mosquito net to keep Nhem Yen's children alive would be money down a rathole?

When I contracted the most lethal form of malaria, in Congo, I was easily cured because I could afford the best medicines. But to save money, African children are given medicines that cost only 5 cents a dose but aren't very effective; the medicine that would actually save their lives is unaffordable, at $1 a dose. Do we really think $1 a dose for medicine to save a child is money down a rathole?

But the answer to malaria isn't treating the symptoms as much as it is eliminating the disease altogether. The best proven method for this is DDT. Everywhere it has been introduced it has produced radical decreases in malaria. It's cheap, and the vast drop in malaria cases would allow the more expensive medicine to be prescribed more often. However, environmentalists insist on blocking the use of DDT anywhere in the world, claiming that its effect on the environment outweighs the human lives it saves. That's all well and good in the US, where malaria doesn't exist and other pesticides can replace DDT, but in poorer nations, the other pesticides aren't effective against the mosquitoes that carry malaria.

There are many kinds of stinginess. There are many kinds of aid. Before the Europeans start pointing fingers at our development aid, perhaps they should take a look at how much they spend on their own defense, and how much we've paid for it since World War II. And if the Left thinks that malaria is a good issue on which to discuss American stinginess, then let them take the wraps off of DDT and eliminate malaria in Africa for good.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 5, 2005 6:04 AM

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» Enivro-Weenies Killing Africans....and Others? from Weapons of Mass Discussion
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a scourge in the developing world. No, not the hollywood friendly diseases of AIDS, nope. We are talking about malaria. There are over 1.3 million deaths from malaria per year. 80% of those deaths are in Africa. Why b... [Read More]

Tracked on January 5, 2005 10:43 AM

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