AFM writes to EU to demand explanation on DDT & Uganda issue

Roger Bate & Richard Tren | 06 Apr 2006
Africa Fighting Malaria

Mr Javier Solana

Secretary General

Council of the European Union

Rue de la Loi, 175

B-1048

Bruxelles,

BELGIUM 6 April 2006

 

Dear Mr Solana,

 

EU position on Indoor Residual Spraying with DDT for Malaria control in Uganda

 

You may be aware of the colossal global burden caused by malaria in both human and economic costs. Yet the disease is both entirely preventable and curable. One way to control the disease is to spray tiny amounts of insecticide on the inside walls of houses - known as Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS). The insecticide either kills or repels the mosquitoes and has been shown to be an extremely effective way of protecting man from the Anopheles mosquito (the malaria mosquito).

 

There are several insecticides that can and should be used in IRS. One of them is dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or DDT. DDT is an essential public health insecticide which led to the eradication of malaria from Europe shortly after the end of the Second World War. In recent years, growing evidence and an improved understanding of the role that it plays in malaria control has led to significant policy changes in malaria control.

 

The World Health Organization lists DDT as a recommended public health insecticide. The Stockholm Convention gives DDT an exemption for use in public health. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria authorizes the use of DDT and funds its use. Recently the US Agency for International Development (USAID) recognized the need to purchase DDT as part of the new President's Malaria Initiative[i].

 

The EU is not proactively supporting malaria control as compared with the priority given to HIV and AIDS. We are not aware of any EU-supported development agency that is currently buying or supporting the use of DDT. Willfully ignoring an essential public health medical intervention is medical malpractice - in essence this is what EU development support for malaria control policies amount to.

 

However matters are made worse by remarks made by the EU Char d'Affaires in Uganda, Mr Guy Rijken. The Ugandan Ministry of Health has stated on more than one occasion that it wishes to introduce DDT as one of the insecticides in its IRS program. Media reports in February 2005 quoted Mr Rijken as saying "...we are concerned about the impact large scale DDT use would have on Uganda's exports of food products to the EU if a decision were made." He went on to state "we urge Government not to use DDT."[ii] More recently Tom Vens, the head of Economic, Trade and Social sectors at the EU delegation to Uganda claimed that Uganda would be "taking a risk" if they went ahead with DDT use[iii].

 

There is no conceivable scientific basis to the charges made by Mr Rijken and Mr Jens. The threats are arbitrary as there are approximately 10 countries in Africa currently using DDT and yet none have been singled out as Uganda has. This EU position has created confusion, misinformation and has hampered Uganda's malaria control program, costing countless lives.

 

On 29 September 2005 the Financial Times reported that Gerhard Hesse with Bayer Crop Science supported the EU threats of economic sanctions[iv]. Bayer Crop Sciences produces alternative insecticides to DDT and in an email exchange with malaria scientists, Mr Hesse noted that DDT is a commercial threat.

 

It seems the EU is using the threat of economic sanctions to halt the use of DDT by other donors or sovereign governments. This interference in public health programs is unacceptable. Additionally people are sick and dying because European businesses like Bayer Crop Sciences use the EU's position to further their own commercial interests.

 

None of Mr Rijken's or Mr Jens's comments nor the media reports surrounding those by Mr Hesse has been accompanied by any official statement or clarification by the EU. We therefore request a clear statement on the EU's position on the use of DDT in malaria control and its position regarding agricultural exports from any country that uses DDT in malaria control. The confusion and misinformation following the EU's statements in Uganda has cost lives and damaged Uganda's malaria control program and this must halt immediately. We would appreciate a response before 25 April, which marks Africa Malaria Day.

 

Yours faithfully,

Richard Tren & Roger Bate

Africa Fighting Malaria

 

NOTE - AS AT 15 JUNE 2006, AFRICA FIGHTING MALARIA HAS NOT  RECEIVED A REPLY TO THIS LETTER OR EVEN AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT THAT THE LETTER HAS BEEN RECEIVED.

 

cc:

Hon. Minister Jim Muhwezi, Minister of Health, Uganda

Hon. Minister Sam K. Kutesa, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Uganda

Adv. B. Gawanas, Africa Union Commissioner for Economic Affairs

Hon. Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, Minister of Health, Republic of South Africa

Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, United Kingdom

Senator Tom Coburn (R, OK) United States Senate

Dr Arata Kochi, Director, Global Malaria Program, World Health Organisation

Dr Kent Hill, Acting Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Global Health, USAID

Sigurd Illing, EU Delegation to Uganda

Linda Hales, EU Desk Office for Uganda



[i] Michael Miller (2006) "Testimony before the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. United States Senate" January 19, 2006. Available at http://hsgac.senate.gov/index.cfm?Fuseaction=Hearings.Detail&HearingID=308

[ii] Josephine Maseruka "EU Warns on DDT" New Vision, 2 February 2005 www.newvision.co.ug

[iii] Daniel Kalinaki & Barbara Among "Uganda to use DDT despite EU concerns" The East African, 3 April 2005

[iv] Alan Beattie "Commercial motive hinted at in restrictions on DDT" Financial Times, 29 September 2005. https://registration.ft.com/registration/barrier?referer=&location=http%3A//news.ft.com/cms/s/0566ec34-3085-11da-ba9f-00000e2511c8.html