UNITED NATIONS. TB OR NOT TB. WHY NOT A SPECIAL ENVOY TO STOP MALARIA?

 

TB OR NOT TB. WHY NOT A SPECIAL ENVOY TO STOP MALARIA?

15 May 2007

Alas, Tuberculosis has just lost its Special Envoy. Now that Mr. Jorge Sampaio has suddenly dumped it for a more farcical assignment as a Higher Representative of Civilization Alliance (!), it is not clear whether our creative leadership can produce a suitable -- and equally distinguished -- replacement. What would the patients, doctors, and nurses do without him? Would WHO in Geneva be able to survive without his diligent effort? How about those poor souls in Cascais, Estoril and Faro who would need his steadying hand? Ah well. One case lost. Maybe another can be won. What about a Special Representative for Malaria? That disease kills over a million people a year. Or, if that is too overwhelming, an envoy to look into the Malaria net. Someone is bound to find it. To the uninitiated, the Net came to the attention of decision takers and influence makers in Davos two years ago. One of the most creative promoters, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, reached the peak of the Swiss Alps resort where he effectively spun a simple attractive proposal about the need to only get a $2.50 net to prevent the death of one million Africans from malaria. He challenged the assembled leaders, including presidents Mbeke of South Africa and Obasonj of Nigeria, to meet in two years' time if only to check on the state of the nets. Even the American-accented Irish U-2 singers Bono seemed overwhelmed, pressing his dark glasses and possibly wondering why hadn't he been slipped that idea by his newly found friends? Sharon Stone, no less, sprung into action. She grabbed the mike to contribute $10,000. Richard Gere, who apparently has his own NGO, followed suit. Within half an hour, the President of Tanzania was the surprised recipient of one million dollars worth of tents. How could he go home without them?

Here we are. Two years from Davos 2005 with nothing to show. Of course by next year no one will remember, particularly if supermodel Claudia Schiffer shows up to lecture tired and retired business executives on the prospects of climate change. But just in case the question arises, perhaps our farsighted new leadership -- with continuity minus or plus some change -- may need a suitable envoy. Either to stop malaria or find those nets. Whichever comes first. It would also provide a cushy job for some other distinguished former President, Prime Minister or at least a Foreign Minister. Ordinary ambassadors need not apply.