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One Chinese Company’s Bold, Controversial Plan to Wipe Out Malaria in Kenya

Malaria is a global threat. In 2017, an estimated 20,000 people were killed in terrorist-related incidents. That same year, 435,000 people died from the mosquito-borne disease, predominantly in Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

Although half the world’s population lives in areas at risk of malaria transmission, Africa is home to the overwhelming majority of malaria cases and 93% of all malaria deaths.

In addition to the pain and disruption, the illness causes families, treating malaria is also a huge financial burden for Africa’s already beleaguered health care systems. So, when a Chinese company comes along and says they think they can eradicate malaria entirely from a country, it’s not surprising why a lot of people are eager to listen.

After successfully wiping out malaria from much of the small African island of Comoros, the philanthropic-backed Chinese company New South is now targeting Kenya, a much larger, far more complex country for its next anti-malaria project.

The company aims to use a bold and somewhat controversial method perfected back in China as well as in Comoros that it thinks could also work in Kenya. The idea is to innoculate every single person in the country using a technique called Mass Drug Administration, or MDA. The idea is pretty simple: if everyone is immunized, then the disease has no way to spread.

Sounds straightforward, but in a country of 50 million people where distrust of the Chinese runs high in some areas, this will not be an easy undertaking.

A trio of independent journalists recently reported on New South’s anti-malaria plans in Kenya as part of a grant from that also featured an article published in the U.S. publication The Atlantic.

Those reporters, Anthony Langat from Kenya, Qian Sun from China and Jacob Kushner from the United States, join Eric & Cobus to discuss whether New South’s plans are actually feasible or just more wishful thinking in what seems like a never-ending battle to contain this deadly disease.

Show Notes:

About This Week’s Guests:

Anthony Langat is a Kenyan freelance journalist whose work focuses on climate change, human rights, refugees, migration, security, health, and environment. His MA in Communication Studies from the University of Nairobi interrogated the media coverage of environmental sustainability in Kenya.

In 2014, he was part of ICIJ’s investigation on World Bank’s financing of conservation projects that led to the eviction of indigenous people across the world where he contributed to the World Bank’s involvement in the Sengwer people’s case in Kenya. He was a Galloway Reporting Fellow in 2014 where he contributed to stories on LGBT extortion in Kenya and in 2018, he was part of What Went Wrong, an initiative that investigated failed in Kenya.

His work has been published in Devex, Mongabay, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, US News & World Report, Equal Times, Thomson Reuters Foundation, The New Humanitarian, News Deeply among others.

Qian Sun is based in Berlin, Germany and works as a freelance journalist for multiple media outlets in China and Europe. She mainly works for Phoenix TV, Hong Kong, as a correspondent covering German and European politics. Her writing, however, takes a human angle and mostly focuses on Chinese investment in Africa refugee and migration issues in Europe. She also works as a digital content producer for FIFA, Pear Video.

Jacob Kushner is an independent journalist who writes about migration, conflict and extremism, foreign aid, corruption and human rights abuses in East/Central Africa, the Caribbean, and Germany.

In 2013 he received an M.A. in political journalism from Columbia University, where he researched Chinese engagement in Africa and authored China’s Congo Plan, which was favorably reviewed in The New York Review of Books. In 2013 he conducted research for the ICIJ on their Offshore Leaks project, a precursor to the Panama Papers. In 2013 he conducted research for the ICIJ on their Offshore Leaks project, a precursor to the Panama Papers. He investigated terrorism against immigrants as a 2017-2018 Fulbright Fellow in Germany. In 2018 he was named a Finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for Excellence in International Reporting. Jacob is a 2019 Logan Nonfiction Fellow at the Carey Institute for Global Good.

His writing has been published by The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Harper’s, The Atlantic, VQR, Outside Magazine, the Atavist, the ICIJ, Pacific Standard,, VICE magazine, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, The Nation, WIRED, Playboy, Newsweek, OZY, the Associated Press, the L.A. Times, Guernica, Moment Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor and elsewhere.

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