Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Why do we help these people?

"God helps those who help themselves," or so Mom used to tell me. "Stupid is as stupid does," is what Mrs. Gump used to tell Forrest. Since these people won’t help themselves, I suppose it is left up to us to help them. By us I mean those whose governments maintain systems which allow the people to prosper. Systems governed by rule of law. Systems with at least a handful of intelligent people running them. Where shall I start? How about with the tsunami victims of Sri Lanka.

Oxfam is a British charity which, along with hundreds of others, jumped to the aid of the Sri Lankan people after the devastating tsunami struck last Christmas. Oxfam bought 25 off-road type vehicle in India and shipped them to Sri Lanka where they were welcomed with open arms by - customs officials. The 25 Mahindra vehicles sat in port for nearly a month while a small mountain of paperwork was completed.

Unbeknownst to Oxfam officials, the Sri Lankan customs service was charging $5000 US per day per vehicle demurrage during the delay. When Oxfam finally went to pick up its vehicles from the port, it had to pay an additional $1,000,000 US to do so.
Oxfam said it had "no choice" but to pay the exorbitant 300 per cent import tax or face further delays to its relief operation.

Sources said that when Oxfam officials tried to reason with the government, the ministry of finance offered three options: pay the duty, re-export the vehicles or hand them over to a ministry of their choice.
It’s enough to make one determined to abandon these stupid people and leave them to their own devices. But then, a lot of innocent babies would die, wouldn’t they?

On to Africa, land of corrupt and bloodthirsty governments and religion. The US has rushed to get FDA approval on generic drugs for AIDS treatment for distribution in Africa. These generic drugs cost about one fourth that of name brand AIDS treatments. I don’t think that too many health experts anywhere in the world could argue that the FDA is one of the most stringent, if not the most stringent, health agencies on the planet. Except, of course, in Africa.

Four countries -- Nigeria, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania -- have told South African generic drug maker Aspen Pharmacare that its FDA approval for antiretroviral drugs had no standing in their regulatory reviews of medicine, and that they have long required a study of the drug's safety and quality from the World Health Organization, officials confirmed in interviews last week.

The US told everyone in the beginning that WHO standards were too lax and the US would only purchase drugs approved by the FDA. So now needy Africans will wait for at least 6 months or longer for much needed antiretroviral drugs. WHO blames the US. The US says:
"It is ironic," said Dr. Mark Dybul, deputy coordinator of the US global AIDS program, in a telephone interview from Mozambique, where he was visiting US-funded programs. "We've been blamed by quite a few people about delaying procurement of drugs by going through a stringent regulator before we make the drugs available. And now we have the premier stringent regulatory agency in the world -- or one of them -- find that the drugs meet all the requirements, and then we have the inability to use the drugs."
Stavros Nicolaou, Aspen's (the South African drug manufacturer) senior executive in charge of strategic trade development, expressed even more frustration.
"After we got FDA approval, we thought all the red tape would be waived, and there would be a flurry of orders," Nicolaou said in an interview in Cape Town during the recent Africa Economic Summit. "It's baffling. You go to these countries, say, 'Here's FDA approval,' and they say, 'Sorry, we want WHO pre-qualification first.' What is Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania, or the WHO going to do that is better than the FDA?"
Well, their witch doctors must burn insence and dance around a lot.

Oh yes, and then this. Aspen, which will be supplying these inexpensive antiretroviral drugs, maybe, someday, also must be approved by the various African countries. This process is estimated to take 9 months to a year.

And what do the African bureaucrats say from their plush and well staffed office suites?
"I think our asking for WHO approval is partly historical and because of our membership in the organization," said Dr. James Makumbi, chairman of the National Drug Authority in Uganda, in a telephone interview from Kampala. ''This is how we've been doing things for time immemorial. We don't ask for FDA approval. I think this is basically a problem with the FDA interacting with the WHO, because the WHO can always endorse the US regulator's review."
Since time immemorial Africans have been dying by the thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands and by the millions. All this in spite of the best efforts of the witch doctors and shamans. But we aren’t going to change that now, are we?

The African bureaucrats are in no particular hurry. They aren't paying for the name brand drugs now nor will they be paying for the generic drugs in the future. Foreign people are paying for the drugs. White people. Christian people. Republicans.

Why don’t Bob Geldof and his buddies attack this problem? It’s NOT the money, stupid. It’s the stupidity, stupid.

Linked to: Introverted Sensing, ProudToBeCanadian, The Post Newsline, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Outside the Borders, Smogga Blogga, Living Catholisism, Camaroon News, Stop SIDA, AIDS HQ,

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