One survey asked rural Africans what they would buy if they had the money. A bed net was sixth on the list. The first three items were a radio, a bicycle and, heartbreakingly, a plastic bucket.
We touched on the issue of disease and poverty today. There was a very nice Op-Ed article in the New York Times a few years ago entitled The Scandal of 'Poor People's Diseases'. I think the author, Tina Rosenberg, makes some very good points and I'd encourage everyone to read this article.
She had written a previous article for the New York Times under the somewhat contentious heading 'What the World Needs Now Is DDT', and this is probably the most controversial part of her article.American officials maintained it was hypocritical to push an insecticide overseas that is banned at home. Americans are beginning to realize, however, that it is more hypocritical to deny Africa the ability to use responsibly the tools we used irresponsibly to beat malaria.
For a counter argument see Sonia Shah's article in The Nation: Don't Blame Environmentalists for Malari. However disagreement over the importance of DDT for malaria elimination should not detract from the rest of Rosenberg's argument.