How We Can Help the Poor
Your excerpt from Sachs' book did not so much as mention a major cause of poverty overpopulation. In recent decades there has been a conspiracy of silence by religious leaders opposed to contraceptives and by politicians and intellectuals who prefer to avoid the sensitive and politically hot issue of curbing explosive population growth in Africa. Had effective measures been taken to reduce overpopulation a generation ago, extreme poverty would not exist today. It is indeed unfortunate that we are led by the wishy-washy, who prefer to address poverty by providing developmental assistance while ignoring the options of birth control and family planning.
Jeffrey Sachs writes movingly on the plight of the poor, but I take issue with his statement that antimalarial bed nets are not available to the poor in Kenya because they cost “several dollars.” This is simply untrue. A collaborative program between the Kenyan Ministry of Health and the NGO Population Services International is delivering nets for as little as $0.67 throughout the area of the country where malaria is endemic. At this price, 200,000-300,000 nets per month are being delivered, and demand is currently outstripping supply. As a result, the program is rapidly scaling up supply and will deliver 3-4 million nets this year, making Kenya one of the very few African countries that will achieve the Abuja target (agreed by African heads of state in 2000) of providing a bed net for at least 60% of pregnant women and children under 5 by the end of 2005.
Dr Desmond Chavasse
Global Director of Malaria Control
Population Services International
Sachs missed one important issue: the rights of women trying to survive in repressive patriarchal societies. As long as women in aids-infected areas are forced to have sex with philandering husbands and have no birth control, they will have babies they cannot feed and care for. Without the basic human right of self-determination, there is no way those women can achieve economic and political independence.
In light of the enormous scale of the world’s aid to the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, it is apparent that humanity is not so selfish and careless as opponents of capitalism see it. If we stood together, everyone could live without worrying about having enough to eat. Why do we deserve to live in luxury when our fellow humans have to struggle against starvation every single day?
Support for Assad
In his interview with Syrian president Bashar Assad [March 14], Joe Klein reported that Assad "evaded the question of closing Palestinian 'rejectionist' group offices in Damascus." What is Assad supposed to do? Free speech requires that all views, however unwelcome, be allowed expression. Assad strikes me as a decent man doing his best in impossible circumstances. We could push him harder, but we would do better to support him.
In your interview with Mahmoud Abbas [March 14], the Palestinian President argued that Hamas should be seen as a political party, like Israel's "more than 33 political parties from right to left and in between." The very huge difference is that none of Israel's political parties have a militia to intimidate their foes and conduct terrorist attacks. Until the government of the Palestinian Authority has a monopoly on the use of force in the territory it is supposed to control, Israel has no real Palestinian partner for peace.