DDT Back in Use to Fight Malaria.
26 November 2002
Reports that African ministers have backed calls for the
use of DDT in malaria vector control should be heartily
welcomed. The insecticide that every good environmentalist
loves to hate has saved millions of lives around the world
and continues to do so in the malaria control programmes
of South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Namibia, Eritrea and
There is no one magic bullet in the fight against malaria
- we need all the tools that we can muster and to deny African
countries the ability to use DDT is akin to tying one hand
behind one's back and being sent into a ring to fight Mike
Unfortunately powerful forces are at work to limit the
use of DDT. First, while the Stockholm Convention does give
DDT an exemption for use in disease control, it makes the
use and trade of DDT much more difficult and therefore expensive.
The UNEP is determined to eventually phase out the use of
Here we have a problem; there are only 4 classes of insecticides
and we already have resistance to synthetic pyrethroids
and in some areas to carbamates. As DDT is the only organo-chlorine
that can be used, that only leaves organo-phosphates and
many of these are unsuitable. As resistance develops, we
have to be able to use all the alternatives possible - and
DDT is one of them. Banning it or even imposing bureaucratic
restrictions and impediments to its use means that more
people will succumb to malaria.
The African ministers should be commended and supported
in their decision to do what is right for Africa and not
to base decisions on what is right for the US or Switzerland.
Richard Tren 26 November 2002
for more on the UNEP
and the Stockholm Convention.