PANNA: A Call to Action on Malaria
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
"On May 17, 2004, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants enters into force. The convention immediately bans nine pollutants, but makes a special exception allowing the continued use of DDT for malaria control until satisfactory alternatives are universally available. The IPEN Pesticide Working Group calls on donor nations to support rapid reduction of the number of deaths and illnesses caused by malaria worldwide by promoting and funding sustainable and holistic alternatives to the use of DDT.
"Malaria is a life-threatening disease that kills a million people each yearæ equivalent to 3,000 deaths every day. According to the World Health Organization's Roll Back Malaria campaign, there are more than 300 million cases of malaria every year, which translates to ten new cases every second. Malaria costs African economies billions of dollars, impeding desperately needed economic development.
"Decades ago, DDT saved millions of lives around the world. Today fewer than a dozen countries still heavily rely on it for malaria control. The latest scientific studies provide evidence that its use can threaten the health of the very children it is intended to protect. DDT persists for long periods of time in the environment, it is an endocrine disruptor, and it bio-accumulates in the food chain and the human body. Children are threatened with health problems via exposure to DDT in the womb and in breast milk. Furthermore, illegal diversion of public health supplies of DDT to agricultural uses can contaminate the environment and crops sold in international markets. House spraying programs based on DDT have been weakened by local opposition to spraying and by mosquitoes becoming resistant to it. DDT has proved to be unsuccessful in frontier areas where housing is poor.
"Integrated vector management strategies that discontinue the practice of spraying houses with DDT have successfully reduced malaria in countries as diverse as Mexico, Vietnam, and India. Components to holistic approaches include: epidemiological surveillance that allows early detection of malaria cases and prompt medical treatment; community participation to improve home and water sanitation levels and eliminate mosquito larvae sites in streams and standing water; bed nets treated with insecticides other than DDT; and improved medical treatment and drugs. The challenge ahead is to provide many more nations with increased capacity to combat malaria and to assist those nations now using DDT to move toward the adoption of safer alternatives.
"When negotiation of the Stockholm Convention began more than five years ago, IPEN member organizations -- indigenous and environmental and public health professionals and advocates from 65 developed and developing nations -- declared that public health should not be compromised when phasing out POPs. We reaffirm this declaration. We further asserted that the richer nations of the world have a moral obligation and must provide financial and technical support to developing states to strengthen national capacity to reduce hazards from POPs. We firmly believe that DDT's elimination critically depends on commitments from donors to fund the promotion of alternatives. We therefore commend the Global Environment Facility, the funding mechanism for the Stockholm Convention, for funding projects in both Central America and Africa to assist countries in developing malaria control programs that reduce reliance on DDT.
"Following a major investment in malaria eradication and control over forty years ago that saved millions of lives, donor nations have substantially downsized their malaria control investments. With the launch of the Roll Back Malaria campaign in 1998 by the World Health Organization and its partners, there has been a heartening increase in international support for malaria prevention and control. From an estimated level of $60 million spent worldwide in 1998, spending increased to approximately $200 million by 2002. Roll Back Malaria has as its goal halving the world's 1998 malaria burden by the year 2010. To reach this goal, Roll Back Malaria emphasizes bed nets treated with insecticide other than DDT; rapid diagnosis and treatment; and focused research on new medicines, vaccines, and insecticides.
"Despite the recent increases in global spending, funding levels to combat malaria are nowhere near what they must be. At the African summit on Roll Back Malaria in Abuja, Nigeria in 2000, African nations called for spending of at least $1 billion annually. Recognizing the importance of protecting public health, IPEN member organizations urge the donor community to increase their investments substantially in preventing and controlling malaria. This investment is critical to lowering the human costs of malaria, speeding economic development, and hastening the day when DDT can be removed from the earth."
Note: See the PANNA website for a compilation of articles on the use of DDT against malaria at http://www.panna.org/campaigns/docsPops/docsPops_030317.dv.html#D.