Malaria is one of the world’s biggest killers. But the drugs that are our best weapon against it are starting to fail. We’re in a race against evolution—but what happens if we lose?
The latest film from Economist Films, the new video unit of the global current-affairs magazine, depicts a terrifying imagined future in which a new drug-resistant strain of malaria spreads from Asia to sub-Saharan Africa, starting in 2016. With existing drugs unable to prevent its spread, the result is an epidemic that has propagated across the continent by 2023, with devastating consequences. It is a scenario that could lead to over 20 million new malaria cases and - in that four year period alone - an additional 1.2 million deaths.
Drawing on interviews with scientists, field workers and Bill Gates, whose foundation has been fighting malaria for many years, the film examines how this scenario might play out, and what tools might be brought to bear to fight the spread of the disease. It concludes that containing and defeating malaria will require a combination of approaches—and argues that they should be deployed now to minimise the chances of a future outbreak of drug-resistant malaria.
The 16-minute film is part of a special future-gazing package, called The World If, included in this week’s edition of The Economist, which examines many other future scenarios, from Hillary Clinton’s triumph to Vladimir Putin’s fall. It is the third to be released by Economist Films, a new initiative that expresses The Economist’s globally curious outlook in the form of short, mind-stretching documentaries, delivered via the publisher’s social and digital platforms. The first two films were “Drone Rangers”, which chronicles the day to-day work of civilian drone operators, and “Drugs: War or Store?” which takes a hard look a new approaches to drugs policy. You can find out more about Economist Films, and see all three films for yourself, at www.economist.com/films
Each film captures the voice and identity of The Economist, complementing the daily and weekly output of the newspaper in print and digital formats. The initial production slate consists of high-end, short-form factual videos designed to appeal to existing Economist readers and to new audiences. The longer-term aim is to produce a wide range of short- and long-form content, both sponsored and commissioned, in a variety of programme formats.
"We wanted to give viewers a really vivid glimpse into a future that could become all too real. The film is rooted in the journalism and access to global experts that are the hallmarks of The Economist. But watching The World If will also be a visceral experience for our audience and we hope it will leave them with a stark sense of the dangers of complacency" says David Alter, Director of Programmes, Economist Films.
“With this film we are doing one of the things that The Economist has long done in print, which is to provide a smart guide to the forces that shape the future,” said Tom Standage, editorial lead, Economist Films, and deputy editor, The Economist. “This is a natural progression for us and shows that our distinctive editorial approach is not restricted to a particular medium.”