Saturday is World Malaria Day, which each year draws attention to the scourge that malaria is to millions of people throughout the developing world. An estimated 1-3 million people die of malaria each year, and many of these are children. But even when people don’t die, malaria is debilitating. Malaria reduces the red blood cell count to low levels, which in addition to all of the other symptoms, drains energy and saps creativity. In response to this, the thing large multinational aid organizations have focused on are bed nets. Now bed nets can be helpful, but they are a short-term fix. Fortunately, after years of false ideology preventing the use of DDT, the world is starting to come back to its senses. Acton has been promoting this for several years.

Today, NRO’s The Corner quoted malaria expert Richard Tren, who argues that a bed net is a potentially useful but overemphasized tool in the war against malaria, with DDT and, surprisingly to some, economic freedom having greater promise for pushing back the scourge of malaria over the long run.

And if bed nets or any other foreign interventions are to do significant and lasting good, charitable enterprises will need to rediscover the importance of subsidiarity, of humans on the ground in relationship with other human beings, as opposed to government-to-government aid transfers that often do more harm than good.

One person who speaks forcefully to this issue is Rwandan Anglican Bishop John Rucyahana, a leading force in the reconciliation in Rwanda and a key partner in Bridge2Rwanda and the P.E.A.C.E Plan. In an interview we conducted with Bishop John near his orphanage in Rwanda last fall, he commented on why U.N. bed net programs often fail, and why the P.E.A.C.E. plan is succeeding:

We have a percentage of people, thank God, the number is getting less, but we have a great percentage of people who don’t read and write. And you give them a mosquito net; you scare them to death. You need to tell them that the mosquito net would prevent mosquitoes from biting them, and they need to trust you’re not telling them a lie. You’re not trapping them with that mosquito net. They’ve been deceived for too long. They need to have people who trust them, and they trust. And the people who love them; and the people they love. So Rick Warren has it deadly right to say that the church is needed to be employed into the economy, into the health and the social recovery of nations.

Churches have the life-giving hope of the Gospel, Bishop John explains, and they are embedded locally.

The church is out there with the people. You know I’m hugging and I’m shaking hands with every one of these children because I’m with them all the time. They know who I am, and they know I am there for them. During the aftermath of the genocide, many people ran away from here, and I stayed with them. All of these individuals giving the aid ran away from here. And I stayed. Churches are here. And we know how to approach them.


  • Stef Schiffer

    The UK education charity and its alternative news channel WORLDbytes has released a filmed report entitled “Early to Bed-Net” as a sober challenge to campaigners organising World Malaria Day commemorations on Saturday 25th April, 2009. The report criticises campaigners’ claims that the day represents an ‘effort to provide effective control of malaria around the world.’

    Director Ceri Dingle says: “There is something quite nauseating about a campaign which treats Africa as a continent of little children that should go to bed early under a charity veil, otherwise known as a bed net. It is sadly consistent with Western low horizons, environmental prejudice and guilt inspired giving. The World Malaria Day in the West smacks of the modern missionary position and the ‘feel good’ at least we’re doing something, effect. If campaigners were serious about the eradication of malaria, pesticides would be number one on the agenda.”

    The report which features twelve feisty young UK volunteers with families from different parts of the world, is available to view at http://www.worldbytes.org/programmes/006/006_002.html

    The filmed report “Early to Bed-Net” was created by WORLDbytes, an alternative on-line channel of programmes created by young volunteers which aims to get behind the headlines and promote a people-first perspective on a wide-range of issues. The programme’s credo is “don’t shout at the telly, change the message on it”.