UNEP 'illegal' anti-insecticide pressure forces SADC to produce DDT locally for malaria control

22 Apr 2023
Africa Fighting Malaria
Washington, D.C. - Though DDT is still permitted for use in disease control under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), anti-DDT pressure from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has forced the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to announce its intention to produce the public health insecticide locally. SADC, a consortium of 15 Southern African countries, made the announcement prior to the 5th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Stockholm Convention. The SADC decision to produce DDT will strengthen regional malaria control and once underway save many thousands of lives, but it is opposed by the UNEP and extremists in the environmental movement determined to ban DDT.

"Publicly available documents as well as leaked emails show senior officials of UNEP pressuring countries to stop using and producing DDT," says Richard Tren, Executive Director of Africa Fighting Malaria. "This is in direct violation of the letter of the Stockholm Convention, which allows countries to use DDT in disease control should they wish to, within the guidelines set by the World Health Organization."

In 2010, Mr. Paul Whylie, a UNEP officer responsible for the Stockholm Convention, 'charged' India, the only country currently producing DDT for malaria control, to set a deadline to curtail DDT production. Elsewhere, UNEP has established a timeline whereby all use and production of DDT will be halted by an arbitrarily set date of 2020. The Convention guarantees countries the ongoing right to use DDT until safe, effective and affordable alternatives to DDT are available, conditions which have not yet been met.

"UNEP's attempt to force countries off making or using DDT flagrantly violates international law, and if successful definitely will kill people, mostly children who are most susceptible to malaria," says Amir Attaran, the Canada Research Chair and Professor of Law and Medicine at the University of Ottawa.

"DDT is not only the most effective, affordable insecticide for use in indoor spraying in malaria control, but as a recent World Health Organization review concluded, there is no evidence showing its use in malaria control harms humans," says Professor Donald Roberts, tropical public health specialist. "Extremists like the Pesticide Action Network have been untruthful in calling DDT dangerous to humans, when actually WHO wrote that 'evidence to date does not point to concern about levels of exposure'."

UNEP is acting outside its authority in the United Nations. A recent meeting of African Heads of State, which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attended, endorsed the targeted use of DDT indoor spraying for malaria control in Africa, where it remains highly effective at reducing deaths and illness.


The SADC letter to the UNEP can be found here.

Contact Information

Mr. Richard Tren
Director, Africa Fighting Malaria
Tel: +1 202 223 3298
Email: rtren@fightingmalaria.org

Prof. Donald R. Roberts
Professor Emeritus, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
Tel: +1 540 862 2998
Email: droberts@usuhs.mil