News / Africa

African Countries Debate Using DDT in Anti-Malaria Efforts

Some propose using pesticide in tightly controlled conditions

African children watch a play on malaria prevention at the Mbosse health clinic.
African children watch a play on malaria prevention at the Mbosse health clinic.

The chemical pesticide DDT has been banned by most countries for use in agriculture, but some continue to use it indoors to kill insects that carry malaria.

In Zambia, it’s an important part of the government’s malaria control program, and the controlled use of DDT spray has led to a reduction in malaria cases over the years.

Other African countries are facing a rise in the number of cases and several African governments are considering the carefully monitored use of DDT as part of their strategy against the disease.

In Malawi, for example, the Department of Health may undertake a DDT spray program in malaria prone-areas.

There is no doubt that DDT is very effective in killing mosquitoes.  The problem lies in what other effects DDT may have on human health, wildlife, environment, horticulture and crops.
Malawi’s secretary of health, Chris Kang’ombe, was part of a delegation that visited Zambia to learn how the use of DDT has helped reduce malaria there.

Kang’ombe is convinced that DDT can help reduce the spread of malaria in Africa -- if handled under controlled conditions by trained personnel and monitored by government agencies.

He says, “DDT is used for indoor spraying.  It is used to only spray within, inside the house, dwelling houses.  What we have learnt (from Zambia) and we know from our experience here (in Malawi), the other chemicals [are active for] up to about two or three months, whereas with DDT you are talking of six months plus. So in terms of “residue effect,” it (DDT) is better, and also eventually the cost of indoor spraying…will be much cheaper, more cost effective than using other chemicals. “

While authorities in Malawi are still considering using DDT in malaria control, a thorny issue has arisen.

The Tobacco Control Commission is against the idea of using the pesticide.  Tobacco is the mainstay of Malawi’s economy, and there’s fear that Western consumers will not buy it if there are any traces of DDT on the crops.  So the commission will likely require careful monitoring if Malawi is to start using DDT in malaria control.

Similar views are shared by Uganda’s Network on Toxic Free Malaria Control.  The network is against the use of DDT as a malaria control strategy.

“We have no law specifically for DDT,” says Network Secretary General Ellady Muyambi  . “ We have no trained manpower.  We do not have equipment in terms of transportation facilities, in terms of storage facilities, in terms of disposal facilities, in terms of laboratories for chromatography.   We do not have the capacity.  We are still relaying on donor funding and we are saying why can’t our country use its own resources to deal with its own problems, especially these ones like malaria.,” says Muyambi.

Also involved in the DDT debate is Kenya, another country debating whether to use the pesticide.

Shrikant  Bhatt professor of medicine at the University of Nairobi in Kenya explains why the controlled use of DDT should be reintroduced. “We are almost getting defeated by the pandemic that is occurring due to malaria.  [Anti-malarial] drugs are gaining resistance [to the parasite].  You know we have very few drugs which we can use as effective means of controlling malaria.  So, I think we do not have any option but to reintroduce DDT in a limited way, [like] spraying DDT indoors or using it in endemic areas we should be able to contain the malaria pandemic,” he explains.

The International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), also based in Kenya, is taking different approach.

John Githure a researcher at the centre says  “ICIPE is largely concentrating on how we can come up with innovative ways or even using available products to kill the mosquitoes at larval stage. “

One such product uses soil-dwelling bacteria called bacillus thuringiensis, or BTi.
Githure says ,”we are trying to introduce that in Africa and ICIPE have of course gone ahead to construct a demonstration factory that will be able to at least make the product BTi available, affordable and accessible to the community to use for mosquito control.”

Meanwhile, the government and various organizations including Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation are encouraging free distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and sleeping under bed-nets as short term measure for malaria control.

For VOA Africa...I am Sanday Chongo Kabange in Lusaka, Zambia.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs