Museveni Raps West over DDT

Raymond Baguma | 03 Feb 2010
New Vision
Kampala — President Yoweri Museveni has attacked western countries for campaigning against the use of DDT and threatening to ban imports from countries that spray the pesticide.

He was addressing the first working session of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) at the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Tuesday.

ALMA was formed in September last year by 20 African heads of state, with the aim of eliminating malaria deaths on the continent by 2015. Africa records an estimated 500 million malaria cases annually.

The continent accounts for 86% of all malaria cases in the world, and 91% of malaria deaths in the world.

In Uganda, malaria kills between 70,000 and 110,000 children every year, according to ministry of health statistics. In 2004, the Ministry of Health announced plans to use DDT to combat Uganda's rising prevalence of malaria.

However, environmentalists and donors expressed concern about DDT's long-term effects on the environment, and possible consequences to human beings, animal and plant life.

DDT use was banned in Europe and US after research proved that it was harmful to the environment. The pesticide also accumulates in the food chain and harms human health by damaging the brain, causing hypersensitivity, behavioural abnormalities and affecting the immune system.

But according to a State House press statement, Museveni questioned why Western countries are campaigning against DDT use in Africa yet these countries used the same chemical to eliminate mosquitoes in the past.

"Mass spraying against mosquitoes can be done. But if you spray now, they will say you have polluted vegetables, fruits, cotton and you will not be able to export anything because of this negative campaign," he said.

Museveni said Uganda is working on a biological method, to kill mosquito larvae and eliminate mosquitoes using bacteria; a method, he said, is already being used in Cuba. He also said Uganda is experimenting with a local herb to kill mosquitoes.

"The method of using treated mosquito nets is a good one. But mosquitoes can bite you even when you are outside. You are only protected when you are asleep. That is why we are advocating for biological methods now," he argued.

Namibian president Hifikepunye Pohamba called on scientists and experts to devise a single pesticide that can eliminate mosquitoes and tsetse flies, which are a problem in Namibia.

According to President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, significant progress has been made in malaria eradication efforts in Africa today.

The UN special envoy for malaria, Ray Chambers, said tthe world is closer than ever before to ending malaria deaths. He cited the WHO World Malaria Report 2009 which indicates that more than one-third of malaria-affected countries have documented reductions of more than 50% malaria cases.