The DDT debate: news from the media

29 April 2003
  • Opposition from environmental groups opposed to the use of chemicals should strike a balance between saving the environment and human lives threatened by malaria. The most successful live-saving programmes rely in indoor residual spraying (IRS) with insecticides, primarily DDT. Extraordinary gains against malaria have been made in South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zambia. In parts of South Africa, malaria cases have decreased by around 80% in one year – Despite the proven success of IRS and of DDT, no donor agency will funds these tools in the mistaken belief that they are somehow environmentally unsustainable, preferring to fund only ITNs (insecticide treated bed nets). - The Herald, Zimbabwe, April 23, 2003

  • Malaria kills more than a million people around the world every year, according the World Health Organisation (WHO). Some 90% of them are in Africa. But South Africa believes it has found the answer. It has gone back to an old and controversial weapon: the pesticide DDT – The WHO has accepted that for now the pesticide is the most effective weapon available. WHO liaison officer in SA, Dr Welile Shasha, has some harsh words for environmentalists who want the chemical banned. "Yes, DDT has been condemned, but it has prevented a lot of deaths of children. The WHO wants a concerted drive to find an alternative to DDT. For now, however, it remains the cheapest and deadliest weapon available against the mosquito." - Radio Netherlands, April 18, 2003

  • At the most recent launch of the Racing Against Malaria campaign, health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang called on countries in southern Africa to use the much-vilified insecticide DDT to combat malaria. While her call is sure to outrage the environmental lobby in the west for the highly toxic chemical is the poison celebre of the century, the call is likely to be given very careful consideration in the region. DDT, which was phased out in South Africa in the late 1990s, but was later reintroduced following a dramatic rise in malaria incidence in its absence, is one of the cheapest and most effective pesticides ever to control malaria. The chemical almost single-handedly eradicated malaria in America and Europe after the Second World War, but its use in agriculture was subsequently banned following concerns about long-term environmental contamination. - Natal Witness, April 22, 2003

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