“The World Health Organization reports that 300 to 500 million new cases of malaria occur each year, and over one million people die, mostly children. Pregnant women and non-immune adults are also especially vulnerable to severe disease.”
Another reason that malaria is a popular cause is that
“malaria can be prevented with protective insecticide treated nets, insecticide spraying, and the elimination of mosquito breeding sites.”
In other words lives can be saved for just a few dollars for a protective bed net the chance of contacting malaria can be greatly reduced. The question is how best to get nets to people. Jeffery Sachs has been a strong advocate for giving away nets, while others have suggested that bed nets should be sold for a small price (good link here). The idea being is that if people pay a small price those who will actually use the nets get them, while those that would not use them would not pay.
Analysis of these studies have come out on both sides in terms of what is best way to distribute the nets (free or small cost). It is an ongoing debate in development economics and my sense is it depends on local conditions.
I was thinking about all of this yesterday when I went to get a cup of coffee from a fund raiser outside my office. The funds being raised were going to be used for free bed net distribution in Tanzania. The woman running the coffee sale was Kim Hawk who is one of two finalists in Towson’s the Associate Contest. The contest is like Donald Trump’s the Apprentice, except instead there are eight Towson students competing to work after graduation with John Tolmie who is CEO of St Joseph’s Hospital. Out of curiosity I asked Ms. Hawk about her opinion about giving away the nets versus selling them, she seemed well versed on the subject I was impressed that part of the experience was learning about these issues. She would certainly get my vote (although I have not met the other finalist), the big decision day is Tuesday so best of luck.