Uganda's Director of Health Services, Dr. Sam Zaramba: Give Us DDT

Sam Zaramba | 12 Jun 2007
Wall Street Journal

Kampala, Uganda -- Though Africa's sad experience with colonialism ended in the 1960s, a lethal vestige remains: malaria. It is the biggest killer of Ugandan and all African children. Yet it remains preventable and curable. Last week in Germany, G-8 leaders committed new resources to the fight against the mosquito-borne disease and promised to use every available tool. Now they must honor this promise by supporting African independence in the realm of disease control. We must be able to use Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane -- DDT...

In 2006, Uganda worked with President George Bush's Malaria Initiative to train 350 spray operators, supervisors and health officials. In August 2006 and again in February 2007, we covered 100,000 households in the southern Kabale district with the insecticide Icon. Nearly everyone welcomed this protection. The prevalence of the malaria parasite dropped. Today, just 3% of the local population carries the disease, down from 30%.

This exercise pays for itself. With 90% fewer people requiring anti-malarial medication and other public-health resources, more healthy adults work and more children attend school. When we repeated the test program in Kabale and neighboring Kanungu district this year, our spray teams required little new training and were rapidly mobilized. Our health officials at every level were able to educate our communities, implement spraying programs and evaluate operations. With each passing year, it will now be easier and less expensive to run the programs.

But DDT lasts longer, costs less and is more effective against malaria-carrying mosquitoes than Icon. It functions as spatial repellent to keep mosquitoes out of homes, as an irritant to prevent them from biting, and as a toxic agent to kill those that land. The repellency effect works without physical contact. And because we will never use the chemical in agriculture, DDT also makes mosquitoes less likely to develop resistance...

Africa is determined to rise above the contemporary colonialism that keeps us impoverished. We expect strong leadership in G-8 countries to stop paying lip service to African self-determination and start supporting solutions that are already working.

Dr. Zaramba is director general of health services for the Republic of Uganda.

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"Give Us DDT", Dr. Sam Zaramba, Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2007.