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Be Cautious on DDT

From: The New Vision Online, Uganda

[Uganda's] MINISTRY of Health is planning to spray DDT inside houses to control malaria. Health minister Brig. Jim Muhwezi, this week revealed that Cabinet had already approved the plan.

Muhwezi pointed out that Uganda loses $347million annually as a result of malaria, and that this would be saved if houses were sprayed with DDT. Indeed several countries including South Africa and Mauritius have drastically reduced the malaria burden using DDT, and a number of developed countries used it to eradicate malaria.

However, the use of DDT is associated with ecological problems that led to its ban in the 1970s. DDT became infamous because of its ability to persist in the environment for long periods and enter the food chain.

Never-the-less, limited use of DDT for indoor spraying to kill mosquitoes is still acceptable under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The challenge is how to harness the benefits of DDT while minimizing the environmental and health risks.

Therefore if the Ministry of Health implements the DDT plan, it should be preceded by adequate preparations so that it doesn't backfire. Tight controls should be put in place to make sure that the DDT does not end up being used for spraying crops. The ministry should carry out massive public education to prepare the communities for the exercise. Strict care should be taken to avoid poisoning foodstuffs and human beings. At the same time the ministry should explore alternatives. Most importantly, there should be a monitoring program to ensure that the use of DDT does not bring about undesirable consequences.

Whereas the use of DDT can control malaria, it is important to do it in such a way that minimizes risks.

Published on: Friday, 30th April, 2004