— The World Bank has announced that it will lend $180 million to help Nigeria and other African countries fight malaria, but stressed it would keep a close eye on the money.
The World Bank's largest ever anti-malaria credit was announced on the eve of a White House summit aimed at mobilising governments and the private sector to fight the deadly disease in Africa. Malaria is the number one killer in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, which will receive the bulk of the funds.
World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz said the new money doubled the global lender's anti-malaria funding. "Perhaps even more important than the size of the commitment is the coordination of all anti-malaria efforts and the tracking of results in the field that sets this program apart," he said.
"We must all work to coordinate our efforts and measure results so that we can rid this plague which is killing a million people a year worldwide, most of them children."
Cause and consequence
The mosquito-borne disease is preventable but still kills more than one million people each year, 90% of them in Africa, according to the World Health Organization. It is the continent's leading cause of death for children under five.
"Malaria is the single leading cause of illness and death in Nigeria; it is both a cause and a consequence of poverty," said Nigerian health minister Eyitayo Lambo. "This scourge which is destroying the future generations of Nigeria can be defeated by the collective efforts of Nigerians and their development partners," he said.
US president George W Bush is hosting Thursday's summit, whose participants include African and UN officials. Non-governmental organisations, and celebrities including South African singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka a UNICEF goodwill ambassador campaigning against malaria will also attend. Last year, Bush announced a $1.2-billion, five-year US initiative to halve malaria-related deaths in 15 hard-hit African countries.
Wolfowitz, the former US deputy defence secretary who has made fighting corruption a signature issue at the World Bank, said he was concerned to see the money is well spent in Nigeria. "The most important thing is to keep track of what is actually happening. We need to make sure this money is getting to where it is supposed to go and that is producing bed nets and treatments and if it is not producing, then we need to be able to find out why not," he said.
Nigeria consistently lies near bottom on international rankings for the world's most corrupt nations.
In April 2006, a group of health experts accused the World Bank of publishing false statistics to exaggerate the performance of its anti-malaria projects, and of funding inappropriate treatments against the disease in India a claim the Bank strongly denied.
The World Bank launched its Roll Back Malaria campaign in 1998 and in 2000 pledged $300-500 million to fight malaria in Africa. But experts claimed that the organisation failed to lend Africa the promised funds and obscured its allocation of money with Enron-like accounting.
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