More African nations use DDT to cut malaria death toll

Tanzanian sprayers going house-to-house on Zanzibar Island Copyright: Kimberly Wylie, USAID/Tanzania

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[LILONGWE] The once-banned insecticide DDT is being reconsidered by many countries in Africa as a means to combat malaria.

But concerns remain that use of the chemical will damage agricultural trade with Europe.

Scientists, researchers and environmentalists meet in Malawi today (12 January) to discuss the risks and benefits of DDT, according to Storn Kabuluzi, manager of the National Malaria Control Programme in Malawi. DDT is one of the most affordable ways to fight malaria.

In September, the World Health Organisation issued guidelines stating that DDT — implicated in extensive long-term environmental damage — could be used under restricted conditions, such as indoor spraying.

The Ugandan government announced last month that they would use the insecticide to fight malaria.  But Ugandan horticultural producers say that European Union regulations would exclude them from the lucrative European market if the insecticide were to be used.

In Kenya, authorities are still hesitant because flower exporters say that the Stockholm Convention will ban sales in Europe if DDT is used, even if it is restricted to indoor use.

According to newspaper reports, Rwanda has chosen to invest in a technique used in Cuba, in which commercial fish farms are developed so that the fish will eat mosquito eggs, rather than use DDT again.

Malawi was one of seven African countries to join the US-funded Presidential Malaria Initiative in December. The initiative aims to cut malaria-related deaths by 50 per cent in five years, by targeting those most vulnerable to the disease: pregnant women and young children.

Part of the US$15 million going to Malawi has been set aside to purchase DDT, if its use is agreed.