New York Times Magazine Examines DDT Use To Fight Malaria in Africa, Says Disease Overshadowed by AIDS
The New York Times Magazine on Sunday examined the use of the insecticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT, to fight malaria in Africa. Although DDT -- which was banned in the United States in 1972 -- is the "most effective" insecticide used to repel and kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes, only about six countries use the chemical for routine malaria control and about 10 others use it for emergencies, according to the Times Magazine. Malaria, which mainly affects children under five years old, was Africa's leading killer until 1999, when AIDS-related illnesses took over as the continent's leading killer. Each year, about 300 million to 500 million people worldwide contract malaria, and currently there is no vaccine to prevent infection. DDT most likely is not harmful to people or the environment when it is sprayed in small quantities inside houses -- the only way the insecticide currently is used -- according to the Times Magazine. However, USAID does not fund projects using DDT, and the World Health Organization actively discourages its use. Although DDT can save children's lives, "[p]ublic opinion is so firm on DDT that even officials who know it can be employed safely dare not recommend its use," according to the Times Magazine.
Overshadowed by AIDS
The eradication of malaria from rich, developed countries has made the disease "shockingly invisible" to aid organizations and governments, the Times Magazine reports. "Even in Africa, malaria gets nowhere near the attention of AIDS," according to the Times Magazine. AIDS has ignited a wider interest in diseases common in developing countries, and malaria has benefited, especially from the establishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Times Magazine reports. The Global Fund, which has approved $499 million for malaria projects but has only disbursed about one-tenth of the money, does not finance projects proposing DDT use. In addition, USAID, which in 1998 gave $12 million to malaria programs, now gives $80 million a year (Rosenberg, New York Times Magazine, 4/11). The complete article is available online.