This spring’s publication of a book, The Excellent Powder, by Richard Tren and Donald Roberts, repeating most of the false claims about malaria and DDT, got me wondering. Their organization, Africa Fighting Malaria (AFM): Does AFM do anything to fight malaria?
At its own website it makes some astoundingly grandiose claims:
In its seven years of operation, AFM has helped transform malaria control by taking on and turning around failing public health institutions, donor agencies and governments.
Offhand I can’t think of any public health institution AFM has even been involved with, other than its undeserved criticism of the World Health Organization — and if anyone knows of any donor agency or government AFM has “turned around,” the history books await your telling the story.
Africa Fighting Malaria springs to life every year around World Malaria Day, April 25, with editorials claiming environmentalists have killed millions. AFM seems to be one of the sources of the bizarre and false claim that Rachel Carson is a “mass murderer.” AFM makes noise whenever there is difficulty getting a DDT spraying campaign underway in any part of Africa, for any reason, quick to lay the blame on environmentalists, even though the blame generally rests in other places. AFM is quick on the draw to try to discredit all research into DDT that suggests it poses any health threat, though so far as I can tell AFM has published no counter research, nor has it conducted any research of its own.
In its 2009 Annual Report, AFM proudly states “AFM is the only advocacy group that routinely supports IRS [Indoor Residual Spraying] and through its advocacy work defends the use of DDT for malaria control. “ Cleverly, and tellingly, they do not reveal that IRS in integrated vector (pest) management is what Rachel Carson advocated in 1962, nor do they mention that it is also supported by the much larger WHO, several nations in Africa, and the Gates Foundation, all of whom probably do more to fight malaria when they sneeze that AFM does intentionally.
Google and Bing searches turn up no projects the organization actually conducts to provide bed nets, or DDT, or anything else, to anyone working against malaria. I can’t find any place anyone other than AFM describes any activities of the group.
AFM has impressive video ads urging contributions, but the videos fail to mention that nothing in the ad is paid for by AFM, including especially the guy carrying the pesticide sprayer.
Looking at the IRS Form 990s for the organization from 2003 through 2008 (which is organized in both the U.S. and South Africa), it seems to me that the major purpose of AFM is to pay Roger Bate about $100,000 a year for part of the time, and pay Richard Tren more than $80,000 a year for the rest of the time.
Can anyone tell me, what has Africa Fighting Malaria ever done to seriously fight malaria?
One could make the argument that if you sent $10 to Nothing But Nets, you’ve saved more lives than the last $1 million invested in AFM, and more to save lives than AFM in its existence.
Update: Tim Lambert at Deltoid sent some traffic this way, which caught the attention of Eli Rabett, which reminded me that there really is more to this story about Africa Fighting Malaria, and you ought to read it at Deltoid and Rabett’s warren.