Skip to comments.USAID Shuns Use of Lifesaving DDT to Control Malaria
Posted on 12/22/2005 9:26:09 PM PST by Coleus
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Siding with radical environmentalists and the United Nations, President Bush signed on to the UN Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (known as the POP Treaty) in 2001. This has been a global death warrant for millions of people at risk from malaria and other tropical diseases, since it, in effect, outlaws DDT and other pesticides that have proven to be safe and effective in eradicating or controlling the vectors that transmit these diseases.
In Africa alone, over 1 million people die each year from malaria, while millions more suffer significant debilitation from the disease. This tragic toll could be dramatically reduced with proper application of DDT.
In a November 2005 study entitled DDT Saves Lives in the Fight Against Malaria, Drs. Roger Bate and Richard Tren of the Competitive Enterprise Institute expose the deadly effects of current U.S. policy on the global malaria plague. It is the current fashion in international public health to attempt malaria control with insecticide-treated bednets, they report. However, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which has been put in charge of the project, buys very few nets. In the recent past, while USAID has spent over $400 million on malaria control, analysis of the 2004 budget shows less than 10 percent of this was spent on actual commodities that save lives. USAID considers that its area of expertise is to provide technical assistance and this is consistent with why 81 percent of its 2004 budget never left the United States. While USAID advises people to sleep under bednets and doctors to buy drugs, it regards the provision of these essentials to be somebody elses job. USAID is reticent about publishing data on its projects, but in the few cases that have been detailed it was shown that, while this advice had been dispensed, neither bednets nor drugs were available.
But the bednet strategy is flawed for many reasons, Bate and Tren point out. These include:
Only one bednet per household is distributed, which leaves many family members unprotected.
Even when available, studies show that only 56 percent of those with bednets actually use them.
The synthetic insecticides used on the bednets wear off after several months and must be retreated, but there is no program to do so.
Many malarial mosquitoes enter houses at sunset and feed most aggressively in the early hours of darkness, so unless a person is actually in bed under the net at nightfall, he is at risk.
I have to say, I don't understand this policy on DDT... It seems that we want these people to die.
While the harmful environmental effects of DDT may be exaggerated in some quarters, they are not completely mythical. And there are a lot of changes that need to be made in Africa to improve health and lifespan, that don't involve spreading toxic chemicals all over the place. It's worth noting that malaria used to be endemic in the southeastern U.S., and we managed to eradicate it, and are continuing to keep it at bay, without using DDT. It arrived in the 17th century, was a serious and widespread problem in the 19th century, and was virtually wiped out by 1940, BEFORE the introduction of DDT.
People all over Africa are dying of easily preventable diseases, from AIDS, which many Africans simply refuse to take any precautions against, to diarrhea in infants, which can be cured in time to save the infant's life with just a few cents worth of medicine that doesn't do one iota of harm to the environment. Those issues, and all the other issues that contribute the miserable state of human health in Africa, ought to be addressed before launching any human health initiatives that involve a "to hell with the wildlife" policy.
In people who live in a civilized manner and are reasonably healthy to begin with, malaria is rarely fatal. I would know -- I had it twice by the time I was 5 years old, and got over it both times without any medical care beyond what was available in the 1960s in the backward country of Rwanda where my family was living. Now in virtually perfect health in my mid-40s, my realistic life expectancy is well above the U.S. average. The high number of African deaths from malaria are not due to the absence of DDT (and in many cases, are due to the victims also having AIDS).
Thank you, Thank you, for an intelligent, reasoned, informed response to this article. It is a welcome change, and it certainly is in line with the comment in the article where it state that only 56% of people with nets use them.
You understand quite well, you just do not understand the reason. Sustainable Eco-System theology.
Money which can found to help Africa would be better spent on working towards fixing the underlying problem, than on saturating the continent with DDT (which is not completely harmless to human health). A major DDT program there now, would only result in slightly larger, but still hopelessly backward and sickly population. Most Africans who would have died of malaria will just die of some other preventable disease a few years later.
I think there's a big danger in making large, fast-growing, backward populations increasingly dependent on handouts from developed countries, of technologies that the recipients can't begin to understand. They need to be taking control of their own lives and communities, and our efforts should be directed towards progress in that area. Teaching them to use nets, and teaching them to teach each other to use nets would be a good start. Today's front page NYT article is a good illustration of how urgently very basic things need to be attended to. Many girls in sub-Saharan Africa don't go to school past puberty, even if they and their parents want to, because there are no latrines, much less sanitary pads. Many of these girls will be married off and pregnant before they're fully grown, and many will die in childbirth.
"WE" don't want these people to die. I suspect the UN doesn't particularly mind, though. Less mouths to feed for the third-world dictators who make up said corrupt cesspool.
I know - I didn't mean to imply that you said that! :)