Photos by Dominic Nahr/Time
As far as provocative accusations go, saying that Baby Omara is dying so Baby George can wear organic is a helluva doozy. More so if you’re doing so in the pages of Time. Despite its placement in the cover story of this week’s European, Asian, and South Pacific editions, however, blink and you’ll miss the throwaway remark, which is overshadowed by swathes of text detailing the utter devastation that malaria has wrought in the Apac district of Uganda.
FAMINE AND PESTILENCE
In Apac, the “most malarial town on earth,” according to Time, nearly a quarter of residents are afflicted with the mosquito-borne parasite. The town’s swampy locale is prime breeding ground for Anopheles funestus, a deadly subspecies of mosquito that bites human flesh tens of thousands of times a year, including 1,586 bites—four a day—that contain malaria. Of the 2,000 to 3,000 malaria patients seen each week by doctors, almost half are under the age of five.
Of the 2,000 to 3,000 malaria patients seen each week, almost half are under the age of five.
Because of pressure from the Belgium-funded National Wetlands Program, draining of malarial swamps is verboten. So is spraying houses with insecticide (in this case, DDT), which cut malaria cases by half in 2008, according to writer Alex Perry.
It’s here that Perry makes the incendiary statement: “Why? Because of objections from Uganda’s organic-cotton farmers, who supply Nike, H&M, and Walmart’s Baby George [sic] line. Chemical-free farming sounds like a great idea in the West, but the reality is that Baby Omara is dying so Baby George can wear organic.”
Whether Perry’s thesis has legs is never explored—or substantiated.
But whether his thesis has legs is never explored—or substantiated. The essay delves into the heart of the malaria crisis, an unsavory mix of lackluster leadership, corrupt officials, insufficient foreign aid, and nonexistent infrastructure.
In other words, the organic-cotton question is left hanging. As are we.