Micro-Healthcare

Malaria solution continues to be stalled

I previously wrote about how there is growing widespread support for indoor residential (not crop) spraying of [small amounts of] DDT as the most effective (cost and results) way of decreasing malaria in many countries and especially Africa.

Dr. Roger Bate, ailment board member of Africa Fighting Malaria, comments that “DDT is probably the single most valuable chemical ever synthesized to prevent disease. It has been used continually in public health programs over the past sixty years and has saved millions from diseases like malaria, typhus, and yellow fever. Despite a public backlash in the 1960s, mainstream scientific and public health communities continue to recognize its utility and safety.”

He goes on to say, “Developing nations are skittish. Their populations have been scared by environmentalists into thinking DDT causes cancer and birth defects; and their farmers have been frightened by EU officials and segments of the Western chemical industry into believing their crop exports will be boycotted. As a result, many African leaders have delayed re-introduction of DDT, perhaps indefinitely. Over the past three years, for example, two different Ugandan health ministers have wanted to deploy DDT indoors, but fearful of Western trade reprisals, their farmers have blocked all attempts to do so.”

Find out more on advocacy site FightingMalaria.org

What ideas do you have in helping to overcome the misperceptions of DDT?

5 thoughts on “Malaria solution continues to be stalled

  1. Bate is a partisan lunatic. You can bet that if he says one thing, he means something else, and the facts won’t support either version.

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  2. why is it so difficult to actually listen to someone on one topic where they might have something good to say even if you have a difficult time with other their perspectives/opinions. I seek to listen to lots of voices … right, left, center, north, south, east, west, etc. because I am seeking to be a learner. I actually care more about sustainable and scalable solutions to global poverty than what political or other agenda people have.You’ll notice on this blog that I read quite widely and include opinions from a variety of fronts which I think are worthwhile to consider.So, I’m happy if you want to start a conversation and provide specific, thoughtful counterpoints, but blanket dismissal of people is not a value I have.

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  3. Overcome the misconceptions of DDT? I’m not a chemist but the information floating around the internet seems to conclude both that DDT is bad for people and that it may cure cancer. Another dead-lock between alarmists and vested-science smells like money, just like the resurgence of DDT for vector control. There are alternatives which have been viewed as safer but they’re more expensive and since no one with the money to do anything about it is in danger of malaria we have these debates… Seems like until you can prove something with a good potential for causing harm is actually safe you should stick to the safer alternatives and everyone just chips in the extra buck to cover the cost. Like a bad Christmas special on TV…Less debate on the environmental impact of DDT, looks like. I understand that use is to be limited so as not to seep out and destroy third world ecologies but, really, we’ve never seen poor disposal of pesticides before? Particularly when money is to be saved? We seem to know that DDT is stored in fat tissue and we seem to know that the toxicity passes up the food-chain in wildlife. Do we seem to know that we don’t know enough yet and take another route until we do?

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  4. We could stop telling fantastic fibs about environmentalists, and embrace those who walk with us in this long march against malaria — that might necessitate paying little attention to Roger Bate.DDT is no panacea. It can help, in a program of carefully-managed, integrated pest management, that must include improvements in health care and in the delivery of health care in affected nations, serious education campaigns to show people how to protect themselves against mosquitoes, such as by draining stagnant water close to homes, or by applying prophylactic screening wherever possible. Free distribution of bed nets seems to provides a dramatic improvement in efforts to reduce malaria infections (Bate doesn’t like that solution for some reason — perhaps because it’s effective? Who knows?). And careful research to determine what is the most effective pesticide to use in a given situation. DDT will not often be that pesticide. But Mr. Bate seems to have a lot of stock in a DDT manufacturer. More DDT is his answer for everything, even though we know it’s ineffective in many places under many circumstances. Blanket acceptance of biased, odd views, isn’t going to help. Slamming environmentalists, instead of embracing the help of groups like Environmental Defense, who have advocated limited use of DDT in Africa for years, doesn’t help.As soon as Mr. Bate writes to Sen. Tom Coburn urging Coburn to spend money to fight malaria instead of wasting time slamming the memory of Rachel Carson, we’ll know we’ve turned the corner.

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  5. Ed, The DDT industry has been in decline since the developed country bans in the 1960s and 1970s. It is supported by two manufacturers: one state-run Indian company (Hindustan Insecticides: http://www.hil-india.com/), and one Chinese company (Yorkool: http://www.treated-bednet.com/profile.htm). The former doesn’t sell stock. The latter seems to be much more interested in selling bednets than DDT. Take a look. Further, if you had read Bate’s piece in the Wall Street Journal before making personal attacks, you’d realize he echoed your words exactly:”DDT is no panacea, but it has a far better track record on malaria control than any other intervention, and in most settings is also the most cost-effective. But lives are lost every day because of continued opposition to its use. Aid agencies must help overcome that opposition rather than support it. DDT will one day no longer be necessary, but that day remains a long way off.” http://www.aei.org/publications/pubID.27067,filter.economic/pub_detail.aspThe issue is not whether indoor residual spraying with DDT is safe and effective. The World Health Organization settled this: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2006/pr50/en/index.htmlThe issue is that Uganda, a malaria endemic country, has been trying unsuccessfully for over a year to supplement its comprehensive malaria control program with indoor residual DDT spraying: http://allafrica.com/stories/200803100793.htmlTo your knowledge, how are environmentalist groups helping to support this public initiative?

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