NOVEMBER 14, 2013
Millions of dollars in malaria drugs provided to Africa by the U.S. government are stolen each year and sold on the black market and the agency at the center of the scandal is well known for pervasive fraud and corruption.
It involves the U.S. government’s multi-billion-dollar investment in a program to treat malaria in Africa, where the disease is rampant and kills more than half a million each year. Since 2002 Uncle Sam has dedicated close to $10 billion for the cause and a mainstream newspaper published a scandalous expose (“Thieves Hijacking Malaria Drugs in Africa”) this week that tells how organized networks steal large quantities of donated malaria drugs that end up for sale at street markets.
More than 20% of the mostly American-financed malaria drugs are diverted each year, with a street value of about $60 million, according to inside government sources cited in the news story. The U.S. provides the medication via a program called President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), led by non-other than the fraud-infested U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
USAID provides economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide, has a massive budget and doles out billions to feel-good causes like reducing global poverty and under nutrition in Africa and to help Asians learn enough English to work in offshore call centers for American businesses. The agency was recently blasted in a federal audit for giving the Afghan Ministry of Public Health $236 million despite multiple warnings of fraud and corruption in the Islamic republic’s scandal-plagued healthcare system.
The report came on the heels of a separate investigation chastising USAID over the government’s perpetually corrupt Haiti earthquake recovery effort. A chunk of the $1.14 billion that Congress approved to help the island recover from the 2010 trembler has been distributed by USAID and the money has been largely spent on wasteful projects, according to the probe. Since 2010 USAID has dedicated $651 million to Haiti earthquake recovery with little to show for it.
In this particular case the agency actually acknowledges that it has long known that malaria drugs financed by American taxpayers are regularly stolen in Africa. “This is not the first report of theft or illegal diversion,” USAID admits in a statement addressing the recent article. As far back as 2010 drugs “intended for use in public sector clinics in several East African countries were found being sold in informal pharmacies and medicine vendors in West African countries,” the statement further says, adding that other “reports have been received since then, documenting additional instances of theft involving drugs and other malaria commodities…”
So, what is the U.S. government doing about this? Taking “programmatic and diplomatic steps to identify and combat theft and misappropriation of medicines,” according to the USAID announcement. Those who dare to read between the lines can deduct that no true action will ever be taken though USAID threatens to get tough “if there is repeated evidence of theft, corruption or fraud.”
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