Idol Gives Back - My Thoughts
I watched the American Idol "Idol Gives Back" telethon last night, and I commend them on their concern with the death and poverty in Africa. Unfortunately, they missed the point by a mile when they skipped/overlooked/ignored the real root causes of the problems in Africa, and failed to address those problems. Now don't get me wrong, any humanitarian efforts to help these people that can actually have an effect should be done, if at all possible and feasible.
Lets take a quick look at the three main issues; malaria, AIDS, and poverty. Malaria, as we all know, is transmitted by mosquitoes. Kill off the mosquitoes carrying the disease, and malaria pretty much disappears. There are two basic actions to get rid of the mosquitoes, pesticides, and draining the swampy areas that are the mosquito breeding grounds. Draining swamps often requires heavy equipment, not always available in the African outback. Spraying with pesticides, however, can be done easily, cheaply, and effectively, using DDT. According to Africa Fighting Malaria's website, only two countries in Africa are using DDT to control malaria, South Africa and Zambia, and both are having spectacular results.
From AfricaFightingMalaria's website:
"But international political pressure against DDT deployment is undermining wider use. There is even a United Nations treaty--the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants--which restricts DDT production, trade, and use, making it more expensive. In effect, disease control is being sacrificed for the sake of an international environmentalist agenda. Worse still, aid agencies, especially the U.S. Agency for International Development, have pressured countries not to use DDT, implicitly conditioning even non-malarial aid on halting DDT use."You should go read the entire article on their site. You will come away with a completely different view of the malaria problem in Africa. Idol Gives Back wants to send them medicine for treating malaria once they have contracted it, and mosquito netting to keep them from getting bit by the mosquitoes. Netting won't keep you from getting bit, it just reduces the number of times you DO get bit. Just about anyone from Alaska can tell you that.
"Environmental ideology ought not to be driving malaria control strategies. Developing countries need to be able to use technologies that are appropriate to their levels of development. The anti-DDT eco-imperialism actively pursued by the WHO, the Global Fund, and USAID shuts off a number of development options for these countries, keeping them poor and unhealthy."
AIDS is killing millions in Africa. I suspect very few of those got AIDS from shooting up with dirty hypodermic needles. That leaves one other method of getting AIDS. Idol Give Back could buy a lot of condoms with all that money they collected last night. Will they buy any at all? I have my doubts, but we'll see....
Lastly, poverty. This is almost entirely the fault of the governments of the individual countries. When you start out with huge natural resources as Africa has, you almost have to work at it to fail and remain a third world country. Even if you have very little for natural resources, you can still have a high standard of living, as Japan has so clearly shown.
Have you noticed that there don't seem to be very many communist governed countries that have a high standard of living? Not too common under iron fist dictatorships, either. For the most part, the keys to economic success and a high standard of living seems to be capitalism and basic freedoms, as then there is an incentive for people to figure out a way to succeed.
The bottom line, in my opinion, is that the Idol Gives Back telethon will do a little bit to help a relatively small number of people currently suffering and dying in Africa, but by not addressing the root problems, there will be little change in the grand scheme of things, which is a shame, as their efforts are certainly well-intended........