Ensuring Life, Health and Prosperity for Future Generations

> Malaria Control in Africa: Is DDT Necessary?

“Fetal mortality or adverse reproductive effects on fetuses as a result of exposure to DDT would be an unavoidable risk of the IRS program.”
(USAID Mozambique, 2007)

DDT, the once-banned insecticide, is back and in use in several African nations, despite its poisonous impact on humans and the environment. USAID is presently implementing a $150 million-dollar contract for malaria control, using DDT for Indoor Residential Spraying (IRS) programs in Uganda. Congested, government-created camps riddled with diseases like HIV/AIDS and TB in war-ravaged northern Uganda were sprayed this past February, as part of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), announced by George Bush in 2005.

15 African countries will be targeted with the $1.2 Billion-dollar initiative, which aims to cut malarial deaths in half. Funding for the program comes from USAID, the Centers for Disease Control, and other institutions including The Global Health Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria, which disburses funds sourced from the public and private sector; among the fund’s largest donors is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Uganda, one of the first countries to begin IRS under the new initiative, presents an interesting case, particularly because of its reputation for corruption and notorious lack of transparency of its Health Ministry and healthcare system. In August of 2005, Uganda was temporarily suspended as a beneficiary of the Global Health Fund due to embezzlement and graft by high-level officials and staff.

Listen to the Africa Malaria Day 2007 PANNA Briefing on Risks and Effects of DDT

From Kenya to Alaska, to New Orleans, DDT toxicity is discussed by experts and researchers from UC Berkeley, PANNA and other institutions.

Download the File (Right Click and ‘Save As’)

There are Effective Alternatives

Kenya has reported a 40% decrease in infant mortality with the use of bed nets alone.

Jessie Stone, a physician working in Uganda, referring to DDT’s potentially lethal effects, suggested the following alternatives in a NY Times letter to the editor:

“. . . insecticide-treated bed nets can reduce the incidence of malaria by at least 50 percent and perhaps as much as 90 percent. Combination-drug therapy along with targeted non-DDT spraying inside huts will also be effective in controlling malaria.

DDT is not the magic bullet that will eradicate malaria. We need to refocus resources and attention on . . . basic malaria education, and prevention with insecticide-treated bed nets. A mosquito net costs $6.50 and can last up to five years.”

Accountability in the Health System

A key component in Uganda’s anti-malarial effort must be the reform of its healthcare system, which often doesn’t provide the most basic of services. A survey of several hospitals by the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda found that nearly 50% of the time, life-saving drugs such as anti-malarials were not stocked in health centers. The organization also found that more than 70% of all medicines donated to Uganda are being sold to the private sector, denying millions access to desperately needed treatment.

More Study is Needed

While DDT was recently re-authorized for use by the WHO, the long-term effects of DDT on humans has been understudied. Researchers in the field state that there is not enough research on the impact of DDT on immunity, its interaction with other diseases such as AIDS and TB, or the effect of DDT when mixed with other strong chemicals, like antiretroviral drugs.


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