The American Daily
July 22, 2005


By Paul Driessen (07/22/05)

USAID's anti-pesticide policies must change, or millions will continue
to die

Would you take medications that could cause anemia, nausea, diarrhea,
hair loss - even increased risk of infection and fetal defects?

Most people with terminal cancer would jump at the chance to take such
risks. And if an activist "stakeholder" tried to prevent them from
undergoing chemotherapy - because of "ethical" concerns about its
"dangers" or a preference for "more appropriate" alternatives like
surgery, broccoli or hospice care - their response would be fast and

Africa faces a similar situation. Only instead of cancer, the killer
is malaria. Instead of chemotherapy drugs, the interventions are
insecticides. And in addition to activists, patients must contend with
healthcare agencies that often oppose insecticides and promote largely
ineffective alternatives.

Malaria infects up to 500,000,000 people a year - more men, women and
children than live in the United States, Canada and Mexico combined!
It kills 2,000,000 every year - the population of Houston, Texas.

The vast majority live in sub-Saharan Africa, and nearly 90% are
children and pregnant women. In 2002, malaria killed 150,000
Ethiopians, 100,000 Ugandans and 34,000 Kenyan children.

Victims become so weak they cannot work for weeks on end. Many are
left with permanent brain damage - and immune systems so enfeebled
that they die of AIDS, typhus, dysentery or tuberculosis. Malaria
costs impoverished Africa $12 billion in lost productivity every year.

However, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, U.S. Agency for
International Development, wealthy foundations and environmental
activists still insist that African nations rely on inadequate bed
net, drug and "integrated vector management" programs - and avoid
pesticides, especially DDT.

If the United States had rates akin to Africa's, 100,000,000 Americans
would get malaria every year and 250,000 children would die. Its
hospitals would be overwhelmed, its economy devastated, and citizens
would demand immediate action - using every pesticide and other weapon
in existence.

But the United States and Europe (over)used DDT to eradicate malaria.
They then banned the pesticide and now generally oppose its use.
Nevertheless, a few African nations still spray DDT in tiny amounts on
the walls and eaves of cinderblock or mud-and-thatch houses. For six
months, it repels mosquitoes, kills any that land on walls and
irritates the rest, so they don't bite.

No other pesticide, at any price, is this effective, and even
mosquitoes resistant to DDT's killer talents succumb to its repellent

Used this way, virtually no DDT gets into the environment. Most
important, it's safe for humans. Hundreds of millions of people -
American GIs, Holocaust survivors, and parents and children all over
the USA, Europe and Asia - were sprayed with DDT, with no significant
ill effects.

Indeed, the worst thing Greenpeace and other activists can say is that
"measurable quantities" of DDT and its DDE metabolite are "present" in
human fatty tissue, blood and mother's breast milk. Some researchers,
they claim, "think" DDE "could" be inhibiting lactation and "may"
therefore be "contributing" to "lactation failure" around the world.

In fact, lactation failure results mostly from malnutrition and
disease. The problem is minor compared to the effects of chemotherapy
- and irrelevant compared to the risk of losing more children to
malaria. "African mothers would be overjoyed if DDT in our bodies was
their biggest worry," says Ugandan farmer and businesswoman Fiona
Kobusingye. They'd be thrilled if Greenpeace and others would show
greater concern for the lives of African mothers and children, by
supporting insecticide use.

South Africa's DDT household spraying program cut malaria rates by 80%
in 18 months. The country was then able to treat a much smaller number
of seriously ill patients with new artemisinin-based drugs, and slash
malaria rates by over 90% in just three years!

Mozambique trains a few people in each community, and sends them out
to spray every house twice a year, in a successful and inexpensive
program. Zambia has a similar program. However, when Uganda announced
earlier this year that it was going to use DDT to control malaria, the
EU warned that it might ban all agricultural exports from the country,
if even a trace of DDT was found on them!

Last year, USAID spent $80 million "on malaria." But 85 percent of
this went to consultants, and 5 percent to promoting the use of
insecticide-treated nets. It spent nothing on actually buying nets,
drugs or pesticides.

Too often, USAID, WHO and UNICEF emphasize ultra precaution about
alleged risks from pesticides - at the expense of millions of deaths
from diseases that pesticides could prevent. They proclaim
insecticide-treated bed nets a success for reducing malaria rates by
20% - but say DDT was a failure because it did not completely
eradicate the disease. Worst, until just a year ago, they were
providing Africans with anti-malarial drugs that they had known for
years fail 50 to 80% of the time.

No wonder malaria rates have risen 10% in the seven years since their
Roll Back Malaria campaign promised to cut rates in half by 2010.

DDT will never control malaria by itself. However, it is a vital
weapon against a disease carried by different parasites and many
species of mosquitoes, some of which can breed in hoof prints during
the rainy season.

Decisions about which weapons to use, where and when, should be made
by health ministers in countries with malaria problems - not by anti-
pesticide activists and bureaucrats in air-conditioned, malaria-free
offices in Washington, Geneva or Brussels. These health ministers need
a precautionary principle that safeguards families from real,
immediate, life-threatening risks - instead of condemning them to
poverty, disease and premature death, to prevent minor, conjectural
risks from pesticides.

Most important, African and other malaria-endemic countries need
progress NOW - not 20 or 50 years from now, when (hopefully) a vaccine
has finally been developed, sufficient artemisinin drugs are available
for every victim, mosquito breeding areas are controlled, and
communities have modern homes and hospitals (with electricity, window
screens and running water).

Access to life-saving pesticides is a basic human right. We wouldn't
ban chemotherapy because those potent drugs present risks, or prohibit
Florida and New York from using insecticides to protect people, horses
and birds against West Nile virus. We must stop preventing African
nations from using DDT and other insecticides to control diseases that
kill millions of their citizens annually.

President Bush and many members of Congress support major funding
increases to combat malaria and break Africa's perpetual cycle of
disease, famine and poverty. However, this money will do little to
reduce disease if it is spent on more consultants, conferences,
reports and bed nets - and only insignificant amounts are directed to
pesticide and other programs that actually work.

The President and Congress need to ensure that health agencies'
financial practices are open to scrutiny, their misguided policies and
priorities are corrected, and they are held accountable for the
success or failure of their programs. They need to ensure that
insecticides and household spraying with DDT are restored to the
world's arsenal for combating malaria.

Otherwise millions will continue to die on the altar of politically
correct ideologies.

Paul Driessen senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial
Equality and Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), and author
of Eco-Imperialism: Green power ** Black death

Copyright 2005 Paul K. Driessen