Sometimes reading articles on projects done by some capitalists just make me sick. Mosquitoes affect over 250 million and from that, over 210 million people get infected by malaria; which in turn causes close to one million deaths annually. In disguise that they are interested in helping in the fight against mosquitoes and malaria, some crowdfunding website calling themselves Indiegogo have decided to come up with a patch they are calling Kite meant to make humans go undetected by the mosquitoes. They will be doing field trials in Uganda soon.
Sounds cool, right? No it’s not. Even though the patch releases some compounds capable of disrupting insects’ CO2 receptors (mosquitoes detect humans from the CO2 released during breath-out), a patch will only last for a mere 48 hours. According to the information available from the Indiegogo’s website, 5 patches can roughly be estimated to be worth $25. Let’s do some basic calculations.
Assuming that everyone affected by malaria will be interested in the patches, we will have over 45 billion patches distributed annually. Since every patch is worth $5, we are talking of over $225 billions in annual revenue collection. For a minimum of 10% markup we are talking about an industry worth over $22.5 billions in annual net profits.
Flipping the coin on the figures: if you want to use the patches you will be required to buy at least 15 units a month. For a family of four, this comes to 60 units which means a family will spend about $300 to prevent mosquito bites. In shillings this means you will be spending over 25,000 shillings to prevent mosquito bites, or someone has to spend that for the sake of protecting your family against mosquito bites.
My argument is not on cost. We could demand for Indiegogo to offer those patches free of charge the way Antiretroviral drugs are given to those living with HIV. But no, this still won’t be a solution. Someone else has to incur that cost. The kites are foremost supposed to be carried along wherever you go. As much as they are light and small, but having to always remember to carry some preventive kit whenever and wherever is already a form of bondage. Secondly, every two days you will be required to replace your kite for a brand new one. That’s inconveniencing. In nutshell costs will be incurred for products that will hardly be used.
The other issue that the kite technology has made me think about is if it could be true that the profits in malaria industry is what has made the world be reluctant in effectively fighting the menace. Ignoring the profits made from the dead, if 250 million get affected annually and a million end up dying, then it means 249 million get treated. I don’t know the average profit margin I would assume for every treated patient but since the last time I got treated effectively I had to spend Kshs. 3000 (those spending on the over the counter drugs still have to end up spending more annually), and assuming a total of Kshs. 1000 from that treatment is the net profit to the industry, then the pharmaceuticals, distributors, chemists, clinics, hospitals and everyone else involved in treatment of malaria have an annual pull of Kshs. 249 billion to eat from. Imagine getting only 1% of that. Yes, malaria is quite lucrative industry that any opportunistic investor would want to reap from.
If the world was indeed interested in fighting malaria, we could be by now talking about malaria in the category of smallpox, polio, leprosy and any other one time dreaded ailments that have since been eradicated.
Can’t someone just wipe out mosquitoes? Or plasmodium? Ecological balance is not an argument as ecological effects won’t last for long, says ecology experts.