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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 Ethiopia.

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 Tyson.

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 DDT.

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.

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