- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 30, 2002

It's probably a good thing that U-2's Bono isn't a biologist. But judging by his ideas on foreign aid, he would probably be promoting exactly the same sort of schizophrenic, unscientific and ultimately deadly approach that the United Nations has taken to treating malaria in Africa.
Malaria is a mosquito-born disease that afflicts 300 million to 500 million individuals each year, and kills more than 1 million, most of them pregnant women and children 90 percent of whom are from sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria also is estimated by the U.N.-sponsored consortium Roll Back Malaria of causing economic losses of about $12 billion annually, cutting Africa's economic growth by 1.3 percent each year.
It's a staggering toll, one that could be dramatically reduced by the proper use of DDT. Unfortunately, the chemical has acquired such a bad name (mostly due to Rachel Carson) that many public-health officials won't touch it. Instead, campaigns like Roll Back Malaria tend to emphasize more expensive alternatives like procuring insecticide-treated mosquito nets.
Yet, like their prophylactic cousins, mosquito nets are not wholly effective at preventing the spread of the disease, even when used properly. And simply spraying the inner walls of a house with a couple of ounces of DDT is enough to keep mosquitos away for a full year, according to a recent expose by Tom Carter of The Washington Times. DDT is not only much more effective than other available insecticides, it's also far cheaper.
Mr. Carter pointed out that the liberal use of DDT was critical to driving malaria from the United States and much of Southern Europe in the first half of the 20th century. In fact, thanks to DDT, malaria morbidity rates were dropping across most of the Third World until Rachel Carson's book, "Silent Spring," sprang its unintended consequences. In one recent example, South Africa ended its long use of DDT following the government changeover in 1996. Malaria rates jumped exponentially, from a few thousand to more than 50,000. As a consequence (this one intended), South Africa has resumed indoor DDT spraying, thus stopping its malaria epidemic and winning back its coveted "international pariah" laurels (held in the interim by North Korea and Iraq).
Yet, if South Africa deserves prodigal status, so do the more than 400 prodigious scientific producers Nobel Prize winners, scientists and doctors who signed an open letter advocating DDT's use in malaria control. Part of the letter reads, "At worst, there are small health risks, and very large benefits to DDT house spraying." Used in such a manner, DDT constitutes an almost inconsequential threat to human health. And even the risk that it might be used improperly (and pose a potential hazard to some species) must be weighed against the terrible toll on humanity that malaria continues to take. The decision to abstain from using DDT for malaria control is a deadly one. If the United Nations is serious about rolling back malaria, it should start spraying DDT.

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