Free the Fight Against Malaria

Namibia is a party to the Stockholm Convention, which laudably seeks to remove harmful pollutants from the environment. As DDT is essential for malaria control, it is the only chemical classified as a "persistent organic pollutant" that can still be used. Yet Namibia and others working to eradicate malaria still face ongoing pressure from anti-insecticide activists, and in recent years the manufacturers of DDT have dwindled to only one. The secretariat of the Stockholm Convention envisages halting all production of DDT in just seven years. Yet there is no true replacement for DDT, and malaria-inflicted countries will continue to need it for the foreseeable future, says Richard Nchabi Kamwi, the minister of Health and Social Services in Namibia.

There are several reasons to defend DDT and ensure there are ongoing supplies.

First, DDT is safe for humans and the environment.

  • Since the 1940s thousands of scientific studies have investigated potential harm to human health from DDT.

  • Almost all these studies are weak, inconclusive or contradictory; in other words there is no evidence of harm.

  • On the other hand there is well-documented evidence of its great public health benefits.

  • As for the environment, DDT produces no environmental contamination when sprayed in small quantities inside.

    Second, DDT is essential for managing insecticide resistance. There are few alternative insecticides suitable for malaria control and approved by the World Health Organisation.

    Third, failing to protect DDT, secure supplies and defend the right to use it will mean that the global community puts the sensibilities of anti-insecticide activists and the agendas of the Stockholm Convention Secretariat ahead of the lives of poor people in malarial countries, says Nchabi Kamwi.

    Source: Richard Nchabi Kamwi, Free the Fight Against Malaria, Wall Street Journal, November 8, 2010.

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    First published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, United States

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 23 November 2010
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