AU mulls use of DDT to fight malaria

Sebastian Mrindoko | 28 Jul 2010
Daily News (Tanzania)
The AU member states are looking at the possibility of using Dichlorodiphenyl-Trichloroacetic Acid (DDT) safely to eliminate malaria mosquitoes which has continued to claim thousands of lives every year.

Tanzania Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Mr Bernard Membe, said in an interview that developed countries have been opposing the idea but AU member states are increasingly becoming impatient seeing its people continue to die of malaria.

"They used DDT to eliminate malaria but are opposing the African countries from using the insecticide to destroy malaria mosquitoes," he said.

Instead, he said, some developed countries have been using African continent as a dumping place for malaria drugs and commodities which have been less effective in curing malaria. This is making malaria chronic and more resistant.

He said once African countries make use of DDT, some western and Asian countries which have invested heavily in malaria drugs and its related commodities like mosquito nets will close down the business.

"Their factories are continuing to make profits at the expense of African lives, this is unacceptable," he declared.

He said heads of state under the umbrella of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) will form a technical team that will look into a safe mode of using DDT to destroy malaria mosquitoes without affecting other organisms.

"If the developed nations managed to spray safely and kill all malaria mosquitoes, why not Africa?" he questioned. He said the present efforts to find new malaria drugs are commendable but not a lasting solution.

They are only curing malaria but not destroying them completely. The use of mosquito nets is also not a lasting solution in the fight against malaria. Annual economic loss in Africa due to malaria is estimated to be 12 billion US dollar (about 1.8 trl/-), representing a crippling 1.3 per cent annual loss in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in endemic countries.

Also 90 per cent of under five deaths are caused by malaria. He said efforts to end maternal and infant mortality will not bear fruits if concerted efforts are not employed to eliminate malaria which is one of the fatal diseases claiming most lives of pregnant women and children.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international organisations have been arguing that malaria-control programmes should integrate a host of mosquito-control strategies. These include fostering natural predators (including fish and bats), eliminating mosquito breeding areas, and finding bacteria and other pathogens that attack parasite-carrying mosquitoes.

Meanwhile, AU has said it will make a special request to the UN Security Council to postpone the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant of the Sudanese President Omar al Bashir for 12 months in order to undertake its own research to prove whether he committed crime or not.

The AU chairperson and the president of Malawi Dr Bingu Wa Mutharika told journalists on major resolutions reached by the AU summit, that a special mechanism has been formed that will go to interview people of Sudan in order to establish exactly what took place. The report will help AU to reach a conclusion.

"Heads of state are not condoning crime or genocide but need to establish proof in order that justice is attained," he said.

He said there are many issues to be considered including whether ICC has the mandate to try the Sudanese president or a duly elected president be prosecuted by an organisation outside Africa. He said Africa has capacity to solve its own problems and that it is better to give chance for the AU to establish its own founded facts.

On the Somalia issue, the AU considered the need to change the way of handling it by adopting ways of attacking the Islam extremists. The US, United Kingdom and France have expressed will to offer helicopters to be used in that operations. The issue of salaries to the soldiers was also considered where the AU has hiked the monthly wage from 500 US dollar to 700 US dollar.

But the aim is to reach the UN standards of 1700 US dollar per month. The European Union is currently supporting the AU in the payment of salaries. Along side such decisions, also negotiations involving various Somali groups which are willing to sit together are going well. This will reduce the possibility of using forceful means.

Other major resolutions reached by the summit are the placing of the issue of women welfare, safe motherhood and child development into this year's development agenda where each member state is supposed to report in the coming summits steps taken so far. This will in fact help to reduce maternal and infant mortality.

The heads of state also agreed that in the next five years there should be in place well established agricultural programmes in order to satisfy domestic demands and feed the rest of the world. Africa is using only 10 per cent of the arable land while Europe is using 100 per cent of its arable land.