News of the Day ... In Perspective03/18/2006
Thanks to DDT, malaria rare in Swaziland
A single death from malaria is front-page news in Swaziland, said the Swazi Health Minister in testimony before the U.S. Congress. Yet in the Democratic Republic of Congo, malaria kills 225,000 children every year. In the DRC, one in five children dies before the age of five, with malaria being the biggest killer.
The difference is that Swaziland uses DDT, and the DRC does not. Bureaucrats at the World Bank, which supplies $30 million a year for insecticide-treated bed nets and scarce new antimalarial drugs in the DRC, bristle at the mention of DDT. Bed nets may save 45,000 Congolese children; DDT would save an additional 124,000. Indoor spraying of small quantities of DDT lasts up to 8 months. It keeps 90% of mosquitoes from entering the dwelling, irritates those that enter so that they do not bite, and kills many that land. No other insecticide, at any price, works this well.
South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia have also reduced malaria rates by 75% or more, largely with DDT. With many fewer cases, it is feasible to get artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) to most patients.
The USAID has revised its official policies to include DDT, other insecticides, and ACT drugs, increasing spending for such measures to $20 million from almost zero. Credit for the change is claimed by the Kill Malarial Mosquitoes NOW (KMMN) campaign, which hopes to get the World Bank, the World Health Organization, the European Union, and others to stop policies such as bans on agricultural imports from countries that use DDT.