Ellady Muyambi Response

Jasson Urbach | 24 Jul 2013
Africa Fighting Malaria
Sir,

It is hard to know where to begin in responding to Ellady Muyambi's piece, "DDT use not good for Uganda" (05 Jul. 2013), as there are so many factual errors and grossly misleading statements.

First, readers should understand that, contrary to Muyambi's quotation from a single U.S. physician, DDT was indeed a major factor in the rapid eradication of malaria once DDT was employed against it in the United States. Also it is historical fact that DDT was singularly responsible for eradicating malaria from numerous countries, removing malaria as a threat for around one billion people. Muyambi's supposedly environmentally friendly methods have almost no record of success in the control of this disease.

Second, Muyambi's statements about the human health effects of DDT are simply wrong. Decades of research have not proved DDT causes harm to human health. Thus WHO continue to approve DDT for public health. This is why Muyambi is deliberately vague in describing DDT's human health harm. He raises the old scare tactic of DDT causing cancer. In fact the World Health Organization lists it only as a possible carcinogen. The label of "possible carcinogen" applies to most chemicals and includes almost everything we eat. If Muyambi has actual proof of DDT ham that would pass any kind of scientific muster, why does he not present it?

Third, Muyambi highlights the successes against malaria in Mexico, Vietnam, and Kenya as arguments against DDT. He should understand that Mexico and Vietnam used DDT very effectively to control malaria in the past. They stopped using DDT because of environmentalist pressures and scare tactics and in each case abandoning DDT greatly increased malaria cases. But more to the point of Muyambi's inference about malaria eradication in these countries, he is factually wrong. All three countries still have worrisome malaria problems. Furthermore, insecticides are still being used in these countries.

These are just three comments on an article replete with inaccuracies. It would be easy to dismiss Muyambi out of hand were his statements not so dangerous. The reality is that activist campaigns against public health insecticides and against DDT in particular have cost millions of innocent lives and made global malaria control more difficult and expensive. Responsible Ugandans should, as the World Health Organization has done, take a sober, objective look at the scientific evidence. This will inevitably result in support for the use of DDT against the deadly threat of malaria.

Yours sincerely,
Jasson Urbach

Africa Fighting Malaria, Director