The fight against malaria - Richard Tren

Amanda Maxham | 07 May 2023
Ayn Rand Center
On this episode of Eye to Eye, I had the opportunity to interview Richard Tren, a leading proponent for the use of DDT in the fight against the deadly disease malaria. Spread by the bite of a mosquito, malaria currently claims the lives of over half a million people a year—most of them children living in Africa. 

Tren, who hails from South Africa, experienced first-hand a devastating malaria epidemic in the 1990s and saw how the re-introduction of DDT quickly brought the disease under control. At the same time, he saw anti-DDT advocates at the U.N. Stockholm Convention pushing hard for a world-wide DDT ban. This led him to become a founder of the organization Africa Fighting Malaria, where he is a director to this day.

One point he made that I found particularly interesting was that although people are coming at the disease from many angles (some search for an ever-elusive vaccine, others work on drugs to assuage symptoms, and still others concentrate their efforts on controlling the mosquitoes that carry the disease), in the end, it is the amount of wealth that a nation has that is its best protection against diseases like malaria. Free economies, in his view, are key for nations to rise out of poverty. In his view, there is a certain danger with foreign aid in that it stops countries from using their own resources to create sustainable programs. Although Tren calls Americans "generous" in their willingness to help, he also makes the point that if the people and governments in affected countries choose not to combat the problem themselves, eradication may be hopeless. I would add that the only proper outlet for this generosity is private charity, and not taxpayer funded foreign aid.

Some of the other topics Mr. Tren discusses in the podcast include:
The problem of disappearing honey bees
The use of pesticides in agriculture
How DDT works
Rachel Carson and the book Silent Spring
The role of DDT in the eradication of malaria in the United States
What led to the ban on DDT in the United States, and the consequences for the rest of the world
The safety of DDT
The problem of insecticide resistance
The unfounded view of DDT as a dangerous chemical

Richard Tren is co-author of the book The Excellent Powder: DDT's Political and Scientific History and contributor to the book Silent Spring at 50: The False Crises of Rachel Carson.