Lifeblood: How to Change the World One Dead Mosquito at a Timeby Alex Perry
In 2006, the Wall Street pioneer and philanthropist Ray Chambers flicked through some holiday snapshots taken by his friend, development economist Jeff Sachs, and remarked on the placid beauty of a group of sleeping Malawian children. “They’re not sleeping,” Sachs told him. “They’re in malarial comas. A few days later, they were all
In 2006, the Wall Street pioneer and philanthropist Ray Chambers flicked through some holiday snapshots taken by his friend, development economist Jeff Sachs, and remarked on the placid beauty of a group of sleeping Malawian children. “They’re not sleeping,” Sachs told him. “They’re in malarial comas. A few days later, they were all dead.” Chambers had long avoided the public eye, but this moment sparked his determination to coordinate an unprecedented, worldwide effort to eradicate a disease that has haunted humanity since before the advent of medicine.
Award-winning journalist Alex Perry obtained unique access to Chambers, now the UN Special Envoy for Malaria. In this book, Perry weaves together science and history with on-the-ground reporting and a riveting exposé of the workings of humanitarian aid to document Chambers’ campaign. By replacing traditional ideas of assistance with business acumen and hustle, Chambers saved millions of lives, and upturned current notions of aid, forging a new path not just for the developing world but for global business and philanthropy.
The New York Times, August 20, 2011
“[a] gem of a book…it has an important story to tell, and Mr. Perry tells it with precision and gusto.”
“Journalist Alex Perry chronicles two years of US philanthropist Ray Chambers’s crusade against malaria. A mix of science, history and research, this is a fascinating take on a disease that kills a million people a year. Chambers’s story is just as intriguing. Pragmatism, business sense and bullheadedness gave him an advantage over the formulaic and often cost-ineffective approaches of many aid agencies. His Wall Street clout helped him to bring world leaders on board. And his focus on solutions such as bed nets and poverty eradication has, says Perry, enabled him to save millions of lives.”
Spectator, October 15, 2011 “A book about a campaign to rid the world of malaria may not sound like a riveting read and Lifeblood is an unlikely page-turner. But you are soon caught up in the challenges of the campaign and, along the way, you learn a great deal about the labyrinthine world of aid, Africa, business and politics.”
The near-success story of one man's fight to control malaria in Africa, related byTime Africa bureau chief Perry (Falling Off the Edge: Travels Through the Dark Heart of Globalization, 2008).
That man is Ray Chambers, a self-made millionaire for whom money was distinctly not everything, but who discovered that helping the poor, especially children dying of malaria in Africa, would be the most satisfying thing he could do. Thus was born the idea of distributing insecticide-treated bed nets in sub-Saharan Africa. Though it wasn't a new idea, Chambers adopted the business model that had worked for him on Wall Street, leveraging funding from multiple sources and specifying targets and timelines. A major key was Chambers' ability to sweet-talk transnational corporations into becoming funders, noting that it was in their own self-interest to support bed nets, thus reducing absenteeism and improving workers' health and morale. Starting in 2009, Chambers' target was 300 million nets, reaching 600 million people by the end of 2010. He came close, but the target grew; however, he succeeded in getting the goods, just not in time. The Chambers story must be told, Perry writes, especially in light of the gloom-and-doom saying of so many NGOs and government agencies who were often critical—and whom the author takes to task for inertia, if not downright lying in their fundraising efforts). Perry bookends the text with before and after visits to Apac, Uganda, a hopeless malarial hell before the Chambers campaign. The author cites impressive data on disease reduction, clinic-building, etc., but there are still questions: How do you sustain disease control, teach proper net use and replace nets when they wear out. What happens when insecticide resistance develops? How do you coordinate control programs with vaccine and drug development in a continent beset by corruption, scandal, poverty, tribal war and massive refugee movements?
In that light, Chambers' story is the most upbeat to date—almost emblematic of the old adage, "where there's a will there's a way."
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Meet the Author
Alex Perry is Time’s Africa bureau chief, based in Cape Town. He is the author of Falling Off the Edge: Globalization, World Peace and Other Lies (2009).
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