The Democratization of Aid

The outpouring of aid in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami brought hope to a troubled world. In the face of an immense tragedy, working class families around the world opened their wallets to the disaster’s victims. Former US President Bill Clinton called this response a “democratization of development assistance,” in which individuals lend their help not only through their governments but also through their own efforts.

But, while more than 200,000 people perished in the tsunami disaster, an equivalent number of children die each month of malaria in Africa, a disaster I call a “silent tsunami.” Africa’s silent tsunami of malaria, however, is actually largely avoidable and controllable.

Malaria can be prevented to a significant extent, and can be treated with nearly 100% success, through available low-cost technologies. Yet malaria’s African victims, as well as those in other parts of the world, are typically too poor to have access to these life-saving technologies. A global effort, similar to the response to the Asian tsunami, could change this disastrous situation, saving more than one million lives per year.

Herein lies the main message of the new report of the UN Millennium Project, which was delivered in mid-January to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The Project, which I direct on behalf of the Secretary General, represents an effort by more than 250 scientists and development experts to identify practical means to achieve the Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme poverty, disease, and hunger by the year 2015. Our new report, entitled Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals (available for download at www.unmillenniumproject.org ), shows that these goals can be achieved.