Shining a Spotlight on Anti-DDT Activists

A story in today’s Mail and Guardian, an online African newspaper, highlights First Lady Laura Bush’s trip to Africa, where she is “shining a spotlight on malaria and aids.” The story offers great insights into the malaria crisis and the dire impacts of activist campaigns that prevent DDT spraying. Some sections are worth quoting:

‘We need DDT because there is no other insecticide which is as effective and can be used so successfully to control malaria,’ said Pierre Guillet, of the WHO’s anti-malaria campaign in Geneva

The WHO long promoted insecticide treated nets as the main preventive weapon against malaria. But the stubbornly high death toll—and the success of DDT-spraying in countries such as South Africa and Swaziland in virtually eradicating the epidemic—prompted the policy change.

In South Africa, the number of malaria cases fell by 65% to 3,597 between June last year and March this year, down from 10,418 cases the year before. Deaths were reduced by 73% from 85 to 25.

This compared with 62,700 cases and 466 deaths in 1999-2000, when the country was gripped by an epidemic because mosquitoes proved resistant to an insecticide used as an alternative to DDT.

The article notes that anti-DDT activists are hindering life-saving uses of DDT elsewhere in Africa. Fortunately, some nations will proceed with DDT use regardless.