A Death Sentence in Uganda

The NY Times Lens Blog has a heartbreaking slide show and story called Breast Cancer as a Death Sentence in Uganda.

Apparently there is only one hospital in the country that treats cancer and, for a variety of reasons, women often wait until it’s too late to make the trip to the capital.  By the time they do, the cancer has metastasized and there is little that can be done.  Here are some excerpts:

“Jessy Acen would get one shot (of chemo) and then wait two weeks until she got the next shot, so instead of going back and forth to her village — which was a $10 bus ride — she would sleep outside of the hospital on a cardboard box while she was waiting for the next round of chemo. She had two sons back in her village that she hadn’t seen in several months and it was just a heartbreaking.”

“Some who have the resources are able to get radiation. Many of them have to bribe themselves to the front of the line. There’s one radiation machine that sometimes serves four different countries. People coming from South Sudan, Congo, Uganda and parts of Kenya all go to this one radiation machine so there are lines and lines of people waiting.”

h/t scarlettlion

Disease & Development

Tom Murphy (@viewfromthecave) has an interesting post on new research into the relationship between irrigation and malaria. Obviously farmers benefit greatly from improved irrigation in arid regions.  It’s well known that increasing irrigation, however, also brings about more mosquitos and more malaria.  This new paper finds that the malarial effect lasts a lot longer than expected.

It’s true that areas that have long had irrigation have lower malaria rates, but those numbers don’t start falling until a decade or longer after the improvements.  Regions that are newly transitioning to irrigation, on the other hand, are at much greater risk of malaria.  This is true even when the government enacts proactive policies to combat the problem.


Disease & Development

Two of the best economists on the topic of agriculture and development, Margaret McMillan and William Masters, have teamed up with a good development economist from Oklahoma State University, Harounan Kazianga, and written an interesting new working paper called Disease Control, Demographic Change and Institutional Development in Africa.  The abstract below gives more details, but they essentially find that selective treatment of river blindness has had a significant long term effect on population growth and institutions in those villages.  I am teaching a Ph.D. class on development this fall and I have a section on institutions, geography, and development.  Looks like I have a new addition to the syllabus:

This paper addresses the role of tropical disease in rural demography and land use rights, using data from Onchocerciasis (river blindness) control in Burkina Faso. We combine a new survey of village elders with historical census data for 1975-2006 and geocoded maps of treatment under the regional Onchocerciasis Control Program (OCP). The OCP ran from 1975 to 2002, first spraying rivers to stop transmission and then distributing medicine to help those already infected. Controlling for time and village fixed effects, we find that villages in treated areas acquired larger populations and also had more cropland transactions, fewer permits required for cropland transactions, and more regulation of common property pasture and forest. These effects are robust to numerous controls and tests for heterogeneity across the sample, including time-varying region fixed effects. Descriptive statistics suggest that treated villages also acquired closer access to electricity and telephone service, markets, wells and primary schools, with no difference in several other variables. These results are consistent with both changes in productivity and effects of population size on public institutions.

h/t @JustinSandefur