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An Ethiopian woman's musings on Africa, the world and everything in between

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        Tuesday, September 26, 2006
        WHO's U turn on DDT
        WHO had a change of heart about DDT since every other effort to reduce malaria related mortality and morbidity is hardly putting a dent on the problem. Now, it's arguing that DDT, which was banned in the United States in 1972 due to concerns about its effect on animal and human health, should be confined to what is called indoor residual spraying (IRS).

        DDT is one of 12 chemicals to be phased out globally under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, substances that are both toxic and persist in the environment -- in plants, water, and animal tissue -- for many years. It seems that a single book, Silent Spring, by Rachel Carlson, an environmentalist, succeeded in swinging public and policy makers' opinion on DDT.

        There are passionate arguments both for and against DDT. This site for example argues that Silent Spring's dramatic language led to successfully ban DDT. And there is this site which claims that "the plain fact is that DDT has never been shown to be a human carcinogen even after four decades of intense scientific scrutiny." Duke University argues that DDT definitely has an effect on living organisms.

        It seems that nowadays, colourful language in reports against harmful chemicals is not helping anti-chemical lobbiest to enjoy the success that Carlson did in the 60s. The debate around flame retardant chemicals, which are proven to be harmful to humans, is still raging in the US. The EU and California have banned decabromodiphenyl ether (Deca),

        Under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the main U.S. law for chemical regulation, the EPA has the authority to ban chemicals, but must take on such a great burden for action that they have not banned a chemical since PCBs were banned in 1976. Unlike other regulatory frameworks, U.S. chemicals policy regards chemicals as innocent until proven guilty, permitting widespread contamination of the environment and humans before action is taken. As a result, chemicals like Deca can be on the market for decades before their threat to human health is discovered.

        What has changed politically since 1972’s ban on DDT? My suspicion is strong lobbying by companies these days (aka bribery, corruption, sleaze when it is in poor countries)kills any possibility of banning harmful chemicals.

        There are obviously alternatives to DDT, which have proved successful in reducing malaria related deaths.

        Many countries are controlling malaria with effective alternative approaches. Vietnam reduced malaria deaths by 97% and malaria cases by 59% when they switched in 1991 from trying to eradicate malaria using DDT to a DDT-free malaria control program involving distribution of drugs and mosquito nets along with widespread health education organized with village leaders.[15] A program in the central region of Kenya is focusing on reducing malaria by working with the rice growing community to improve water management, use livestock as bait, introduce biological controls and distribute mosquito nets in affected areas. [16]The World Wildlife Fund has documented success in the Kheda district in India, where non-chemical approaches were demonstrated to be cost-effective. [17] In the Philippines, the successful national program has relied on treated bed nets and spraying of alternative chemicals. [18] What countries fighting malaria need is strong support for effective solutions, not increased reliance on DDT.

        In a letter written in April 2004, a group of scientists, researchers and doctors wrote an open letter to WHO objecting to the organization’s stance against DDT to control (preferably eradicate) malaria. Now, WHO has changed its policy to start IRS in 2007. Hopefully, they have solid scientific proof that people are not going to be affected by it. Hopefully, the dire health situation caused by AIDS & TB is not going to worsen by spraying DDT inside houses. Science is going wacko these days – Pluto is not a planet anymore, one decade DDT is in and the next it's out (and now almost in again). I wouldn't be surprised if a few years from now, WHO comes up with "oops, we should have considered the AIDS epidemic before we used DDT for malaria control."

        Facts & figures about malaria

        * an estimated one million people in Africa die from malaria each year, 90% of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa 71% of all deaths from malaria are in children under 5. A child's most vulnerable period begins at six months, when the mother's protective immunity wears off and before the infant has established its own robust immune system. Once infected a child's condition may deteriorate quickly and children can die within 48 hours after the first symptoms appear (Roll Back Malaria)

        * the consensus view of recent studies and reviews is that malaria causes at least 20% of all deaths in children under 5 years of age in Africa

        * malaria kills a child every 30 seconds

        * 300 to 500 million clinical cases of malaria are documented each year worldwide

        * the majority of infections in Africa are caused by Plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous of the four human malaria parasites
        posted by Fikirte @ 1:37 AM   Digg!
        • name<="c115928858817444370" id="c115928858817444370">

          At 12:36 PM, Blogger sokari said…

          Wow - just shows how long since i actually came here - i do visit via the aggregator though:)

          The 1st Carnival of African Women is taking place at (the details are on the site)

          I hope you will be able to participate if not this time at some later date. Meanwhile we would appreciate you linking to our blog aggregator which is on the site and which lists all the blogs (we know of) by African women.

          Many thanks and good luck
          Sokari, Mshairi, AfroFeminista and Mama's Junkyard

        • name<="c8694914429880149174" id="c8694914429880149174">

          At 10:38 AM, Anonymous Africa Fighting Malaria said…

          World Malaria Day is April 25, 2008. Africa Fighting Malaria is issuing a Call to Action to support indoor residual spraying, a highly effective, World Health Organization-approved method of malaria control – check out our interactive Africa map:

          Also check out our new video and support AFM's fight against malaria!

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