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AFRICA FIGHTING MALARIA RESPONDS TO SOUTH AFRICA'S DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE'S CALL TO PHASE OUT DDT IN MALARIA CONTROL

26 JUNE 2002

Dear Mr. Moorcroft,

I was utterly dismayed to see the outrageous press release from the DA calling for the Department of Health to stop using DDT in malaria control. I work for an NGO (Africa Fighting Malaria) have been behind a campaign for the past few years to stop the banning of DDT and to give malaria control officers the right to use the best available weapons to fight the disease.

You say in your press release that DDT has a devastating effect on wildlife. This is simply not true. Almost all of the studies into the environmental impact of DDT have been found to grossly exaggerate the environmental impact or to be entirely unscientific. If you would like to get more information on the impacts of DDT use see Attaran & Maharaj, (British Medical Journal, Volume 321, 2 December 2000, pp 1403 - 1404) and Curtis & Lines (Parasitology Today, Volume 16, no. 3, 2000, pp 119 - 121)

You go on to say that most conservation-minded countries in the world have banned DDT. Exactly which countries are you referring to? If you mean that the US and Europe have banned DDT, you should also point out that they used this life-saving chemical to eradicate malaria shortly after the Second World War. It is absurd to compare countries in southern Africa that suffer from malaria with countries that do not face the same kinds of risk from disease.

You are probably aware that in 1996 after sustained environmentalist pressure, the Department of Health removed DDT from its malaria control programme. What followed was one of the worst malaria epidemics in South African history. The reason being that the Anopheles mosquitoes were resistant to the alternative synthetic pyrethroid insecticides that replaced DDT. In addition, Anopheles funestus, one of the most efficient vectors of malaria, returned to South Africa from Mozambique after an absence of over 50 years. It was the use of DDT that ensured that An. funestus was eradicated from our country shortly after World War 2. During the epidemic, malaria cases rose by over 1000% in just 3 years and the number of deaths from malaria increased ten fold.

After the Department of Health re-introduced DDT, it has achieved a reduction in malaria cases of over 80%. This is a remarkable achievement and instead of criticising the government, your party should be congratulating them.

I find it extraordinary that you accuse the Minister of Health of polluting our environment. DDT is sprayed in tiny quantities on the insides of houses and there is almost no escape into the wider environment. Even if the minute quantities did get out and entered the eco-system, are you prepared to sacrifice the lives of children to avoid this? If so, might I suggest that you visit Northern KwaZulu Natal and, in person, explain to the population why you think they should lose their lives.

What you fail to appreciate is that one cannot protect the environment simply by removing man-made chemicals. The best way of ensuring that the environment in our malarial areas is protected is by looking after the population that lives there. By ensuring that they are healthy, productive and able to advance economically, they will be less reliant on the ecosystem for food, warmth and shelter and have greater incentives to look after the natural environment. A poor, unhealthy and unproductive population is a far greater threat to the environment than minute amounts of DDT. If you would like more information on this, contact Prof. Gerhard Verdoorn at the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) who recognises this and supports the use of DDT for malaria control. In fact, the EWT trained the DDT sprayers so that they would use the chemical in the most environmentally sensitive manner.

Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring has been shown to be deeply flawed. The 1972 edition of the book even admits this on the back cover when it states "It makes no difference that some of the fears she expressed ten years ago have proved groundless or that here and there she may have been wrong in detail." Rachel Carson has been shown to have been one of the world's worst misanthropists and it is most regrettable that you are aligning yourself and your party with her.

The malaria control teams in Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu Natal have been doing an outstanding job at saving lives, ensuring a safe envrionment and assisting greatly in the development of the area. You should contact Dr. Patrick Moonasar at the Department of Health in Pretoria (012 312 0102) for more information on the excellent work that they are doing.

I have written very widely on the subject of malaria control and would be delighted to send you any information that you might require. While I have publicly disagreed with the Government on some matters related to healthcare, notably the issue of compulsory licensing and parallel importation, the Government has got it 100% right on the use of DDT in malaria control.

The Minister of Health deserves your support on this issue. She has put people first and should be congratulated for not bowing to the misguided, misanthropic and unscientific pressure from environmentalists.

Yours sincerley

Richard Tren
rtren@fightingmalaria.org
+27 82 921 1081
+27 11 884 9578
www.fightingmalaria.org

LINK TO PROFESSOR MAUREEN COETZEE'S RESPONSE TO THE DA STATEMENT

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