- The Washington Times - Friday, May 9, 2003

Kenya’s leading research center has come out in favor of using DDT to stem the toll of malaria in the country, reigniting a bitter debate between those who want to protect the environment and those who favor saving African children.With the announcement, Kenya is poised to join a handful of other African countries, which are disregarding donor-nation admonitions that the chemical is an environmental disaster.”We do not discount the efficacy of DDT spraying, but USAID had determined that the most cost-effective measure for stopping the spread of malaria is insecticide-treated nets,” said a U.S. Agency for International Development officer on the condition of anonymity.Nairobi’s Kenya Medical Research Institute (KMRI) has proposed reintroducing DDT for indoor residual spraying, saying that under strict controls, the environment can be protected and African lives saved. The institute’s report examines malaria rates in South Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Mauritius, all of which use DDT to protect their populations.”These are some of the countries with the lowest prevalence of malarial deaths in Africa,” Dr. John Vulule, a senior epidemiologist with KMRI, told the African Eye News Service on Monday.In indoor residual spraying, or IRS, a few ounces of the chemical are sprayed in the inside walls of a house once or twice a year. That keeps the mosquitos out, especially at night, the prime biting time. No one is suggesting using DDT for agriculture.”DDT is not the only weapon against malaria, but given its success in other parts of Africa, it would be of great benefit for malaria control in Kenya,” Richard Tren, director of Africa Fighting Malaria, in Johannesburg said yesterday. “Not using DDT, in effect, condemns Africans to die.”Dr. Davy Koech, director of KMRI, said DDT is one of the most effective pesticides against the anopheles mosquito, which transmits malaria. He said malaria in Kenya has reached epidemic proportions.According to the World Health Organization an estimated 3,000 people die of malaria every day — one every 30 seconds — and the overwhelming majority of them are children under the age of 5 and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa. The WHO says about 9 million people die of the disease each year and that the most commonly used drug to treat the disease — chloroquine — is no longer effective in most parts of Africa.Cheap and effective, DDT was once considered a modern miracle for dealing with malaria and insect pests in agriculture. It was used during World War II, when entire cities were sprayed to control lice and typhus. DDT was used to eradicate malaria in the United States, but it was also used by the ton for agriculture, where it killed birds. DDT was named the culprit and vilified by Rachel Carson in her 1962 book “Silent Spring,” leading to its ban in the United States in 1972.Much of the world followed. The United Nations Environment Program and the WHO are opposed to DDT, except in very limited circumstances.South Africa banned the chemical in 1996 after its apartheid government was replaced, but upon seeing its malaria rate jump from a few thousand cases a year to 50,000 a year, it reintroduced DDT and brought its epidemic under control. South Africa’s success has emboldened other African nations to do the same, despite protests from Europe and the United States.Zambia recently decided to reintroduce the chemical for malaria control, and Uganda announced that it would begin using DDT again.”In Europe, they used DDT to kill anopheles mosquitos that cause malaria,” Ugandan Health Minister Jim Muhewezi told the Monitor newspaper in Kampala. “Why can’t we use DDT to kill the enemy in our own camp?”

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