President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic and Haitian President Rene Preval are being pitched the idea of eliminating Malaria from within their borders by 2020.
Former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, visited with Presidents Fernandez and Preval separately in Santo Domingo and Port-au-Prince in early October to try to persuade them to take up the tab for the US$250 million non-profit Carter Center pilot project, which is credited with curbing the spread of Malaria and Lymphatic Filariasis in the two countries’ border towns. Up to 30,000 Dominicans and Haitians are afflicted with Malaria every year; thousands more are stricken with the disfiguring disease Filariasis.
The Carter Center coordinates the distribution of chemically impregnated bed nets to people, motorbikes for field workers to more easily get around to test and treat patients and microscopes that technicians can use to do their lab work. However, all of this could come to an end when funding for the Carter Center project runs out in April 2010.
One of the arguments Carter would have made to his opposite numbers was that the 2004 Malaria outbreak in the DR cost the tourist industry in that country just as much in lost revenue as the projected bill for the renewal of the pilot project. In the case of Haiti, stability in the health sector is crucial to the expansion of the garment, agriculture, energy and tourist industries.
Following his meeting with President Fernandez, Carter told the press assembled in Santo Domingo that Malaria and Filariasis are two diseases that would “…prevent people from working productively… and the fact they still exist is an obstacle to investors coming here for new factories or for tourists coming here to enjoy themselves.”
President Fernandez and President Preval meet again in November to discuss the project further. Foremost on the agenda must be how to foster full cooperation between Santo Domingo and Port-au-Prince. The stakes are not confined to the island of Hispaniola that they share, but also for the neighbouring islands of Jamaica and the Bahamas, which have unwittingly accepted malarious persons who are involved in the illegal drugs trade and human trafficking.