Does Africa Fighting Malaria actually fight malaria?


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.

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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.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Pharyngula and Antievolution.org, even though AFM wasn’t what they were targeting.

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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.

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19 Responses to Does Africa Fighting Malaria actually fight malaria?

  1. […] Burge urged people to speak out for more DDT, and to donate money to Africa Fighting Malaria.  Readers of my blog may recall that AFM is the astro-turf organization founded by Roger Bate years ago, from all appearance to pay Roger Bate to say nasty things about […]

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  2. BirdLab says:

    Graeme, it’s pretty clear that you are a Malaria Control bedwetter.

    Now go back to the pie-shop, you uneducated, unemployable, Kiwi tub of lard. You have the IQ of a slug.

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  3. yilloslime says:

    Great post Ed. I’ve always loved your DDT posts. I also often wondered what AFM actually does to fight malaria. Their annual reports talk about all the OpEds, LTEs, and articles they place and the conferences they go to, but there’s next to nothing about doing actual malaria control work, which is odd considering their name is “Africa Fighting Malaria.”

    (I say “next to nothing” b/c their 2009 annual report does talk about their “March of Washingtons” campaign to provide antimalarial drugs to East Africa. So far they raised $83,307 and distributed $30,000 worth of drugs. Of course, their 2008 990 shows them taking in 318,000 in revenue, so it’s a net negative– they spent more than $300K to raise less than $100 for actual malaria control)

    I too am suspicious of their motive in their drug work. Certainly, counterfeit and expired drugs are a big problem, but given their motivations for promoting DDT (as documented by Ed, John Quiggin, Tim Lambert, and others) I can’t help but suspect that this latest pet issue if theirs is really designed to breed suspicion of generic drug producers so as to strengthen position of Big Pharma. The financial disclosures on some of AFM’s academic papers indicate contributes from big drug companies.

    And if you look at AFM’s papers on drug quality, you’ll note that they don’t compare drugs to US Pharmacopoeia standards or other accepted standards. In fact it’s unclear what standards they are using to say “this is a good sample”/”this is a bad sample”, and they don’t compare samples collected in the field to bona fide samples known be “real”.* So whether the “fake” drugs they identify really are any worse than “real” (i.e. brand name) drugs isn’t clear.

    *Actually, let me clarify: it’s clear what standards they use to decide whether an individual pill is good or bad, but drug quality is not about individual pills, it’s about batches. USP and other drug standards allow individual pills to fail while “passing” a production batch, so long as a certain percentage of pills in the batch are good. So for a production batch, if something 90% of the sampled pills have between 75% and 125% of the labeled amount of active ingredient, then the batch passes. And this where it’s unclear what standard AFM is using.

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  4. graemebird says:

    Ed you are genocidal scum. There is nothing clearer than that. To advocate bringing the mosquito to within three feet of the black babies brain is genocidal. You know exactly whats going to happen. Under this policy it is only a matter of time until each of these children are murdered. This is the outcome. This is what you are after.

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  5. graemebird says:

    You morons. You still haven’t got it to where you can understand the difference between a bednets policy and a bednets alone policy.

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  6. Ed Darrell says:

    Steve Reuland said:

    So yeah, it appears that they do nothing to actually fight malaria. But if they have a good explanation for how this money is spent, I’d like to hear it.

    You know, I hope AFM has a good explanation that involves something that actually fights malaria, as opposed to something that tries to denigrate WHO or Rachel Carson. But I do not believe they do. I’m a cynic from much experience.

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  7. Ed Darrell says:

    Mr. Bird said:

    DDT kills the mosquito you moron DDT, and other pesticides are just part of the picture.

    DDT kills the mosquito, if it kills at all, after the mosquito has bitten its victim. We hope to get the mosquito within two weeks of its first having bitten, so that would be before it could transmit malaria (which it must get from a human victim first; it takes about two weeks for the malaria parasite to develop to the next stage, able to re-infect humans).

    Nets stop the bite altogether.

    On the basis of your “close to the baby” criterion early in this thread, Mr. Bird, nets are much more efficacious, and much more effective.

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  8. Steve L says:

    Thanks Ed. I’ll go a-looking for a copy, and I’ll follow your bug-girl links.

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  9. On a superficial level after reading the 2009 report, it seems like their work on drug efficacy and drug counterfeiting is actually useful, as opposed to their DDT nonsense.

    My suspicion is that they’re carrying water for big pharma by opposing the use of generic drugs. Maybe there is a problem with some generics being of poor quality, but it seems more like a way to rationalize getting poor Africans to pay 10 times as much for the same thing.

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  10. graemebird says:

    “Nets may allow mosquitoes to come within a few feet of a kid under the net, protecting the child all the time.”

    No you are just being a moron Ed. Don’t be applying for jobs to do with occupational health and safety. This is about you wanting black kids dead.

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  11. On a superficial level after reading the 2009 report, it seems like their work on drug efficacy and drug counterfeiting is actually useful, as opposed to their DDT nonsense. Who knows though – some of their citations are pretty vague. It might be a good homework project for someone to follow up and see if they’ve really published where they’ve claimed to have published.

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  12. Ed Darrell says:

    Steve L,

    See the last chapter of Silent Spring, “The Other Road,” starting on page 277 of the 40th Anniversary Edition. Also be sure to read the forward and the essays by Linda Lear, Carson’s biographer, and by the great biologist Edward O. Wilson.

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  13. Ed Darrell says:

    Steve L,

    ::wondering where I put my copy of Silent Spring when we moved the office . . .::

    Bug Girl has some of the best, hard-science reporting on this issue. I urge you to get a copy of Silent Spring and read what Carson actually wrote.

    In the meantime, check out Bug Girl:

  14. “DDT, junk science, malaria, and the attack on Rachel Carson”
  15. “Setting the record straight on Rachel Carson” (This has the most direct quotes, though the links to the USFWS site have expired.) (But also see the USFWS flyer, “Rachel Carson, a conservation legacy.”)
  16. “DDT, junk science, malaria and insecticide resistance” (Probably the best, quick summary of what integrated pest management (IPM) really is.)
  17. Hope that helps.

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  • Steve L says:

    Congratulations — your bit of research in looking-up form 990s will probably save more lives than AFM ever will, since now people like Ellie can be more certain that their contributions support something relatively worthwhile. Shame on AFM. I hope this web page is viewed widely, and I hope people will look up form 990s for the organizations they do support.

    Question: I don’t know Rachel Carson very well. Do you have a link for her supporting Indoor Residual Spraying? Actually, the whole paragraph on AFM’s lie (in its 2009 Annual Report) might be improved by better documentation of other groups’ support of it.

    Thanks again.

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  • Jim Stanley says:

    Graeme,

    Hi again! Regarding this statement of yours…

    “Environmentalists have murdered tens of millions with the centralization of malaria control. This is a fact of history”

    Could you kindly provide some source material? I’d be interested in seeing what scholarly journals, medical professionals or UN officials have to say. If you’re right, this should be a grave concern.

    Thanks so much!

    Jim

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  • Ed Darrell says:

    Bird, here’s my earlier rebuttal to that silly, inaccurate and shameful videoright to label it “shame” — that is what you meant, right?):

    Some of these people appear to be incredibly ill-informed. DDT doesn’t kill the malaria parasite. It only treats one vector in one part of the parasites’ life cycle.

    Mueller toured consuming DDT? That’s a bizarre claim. Gordon Edwards did — but Mueller? Got a citation for that?

    DDT harmless? There is no study that indicates that’s true for humans. DDT is regularly used as a poison in suicides in India. The toxicity studies cite several human deaths from DDT. It’s not powerfully acutely toxic to humans, but no study claims it is safe for humans. It is listed as a probable human carcinogen by every cancer-fighting agency on Earth — are these people calling the American Cancer Society liars?

    DDT has been available for use freely in Africa for decades. Where it was used heavily, use was stopped when it stopped being effective. Is there some pixie dust that makes it work again?

    And, would you look at this video? The malaria-fighting experts who are actually in Africa, as opposed to a London TV studio, think nets work well:

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  • Ed Darrell says:

    Bird, you’re still divorced from reality, I see.

    Nets may allow mosquitoes to come within a few feet of a kid under the net, protecting the child all the time.

    DDT, on the other hand, leaves no barrier between the child and the mosquito. In fact, DDT is intended to kill mosquitoes after they have already bitten a human and taken blood.

    If you’re paying attention, this would explain why nets are so much more effective than DDT. Nets stop almost all mosquitoes; DDT doesn’t stop any, but we hope it kills enough that none survive the two weeks or so required for malaria parasites to mature to that stage in their life cycle that they can reinfect humans. Alas for fighting DDT, that’s not always the case.

    Nets alone are about 50% to 85% effective; DDT alone is 25% to 50% effective.

    Following the lines of illogic you used on Ellie’s comment, we might wonder: Why do you hate children so, Mr. Bird? And what is your special distaste for Africa and Asia?

    Ellie: You can’t reason a man out of a position he didn’t get to by reason. You can’t change any of Graeme Bird’s views.

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  • Ellie says:

    graemebird wrote, “Ellie, your insistence on the use of nets alone is an attempt to bring malaria-infected mosquitos within three feet of someone elses beautiful little baby.”

    Goodness! There must be something going on in cyberspace to which I am not privvy, adding words to my comment that I am unable to see! I have reread my comment several times, and nowhere that I can I find “insistence on the use of nets alone.” Would you mind pointing it out to me? Thank you in advance for your help.

    BTW, I can’t find that AFM has actually contributed anything material to the fight against malaria, but they do seem to be highly successful at raising money and paying themselves. Perhaps you could help me there, also? By “material,” I mean something other than papers, articles and expensive videos.

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  • graemebird says:

    Ellie, your insistence on the use of nets alone is an attempt to bring malaria-infected mosquitos within three feet of someone elses beautiful little baby.

    Shame.


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