DDT is the most effective insecticide ever used to control disease. But when western nations banned it for use in agriculture in the 1970s, many western interests started lobbying against all uses of what Winston Churchill called the "Excellent Powder". Such lobbying has reduced its use drastically, but it is still deployed by some African nations, although since India is the only country still producing DDT they find it harder to source it. There are other methods of malaria control, bed nets, drugs and other insecticides but DDT is often the cheapest method. In the latest Health Policy Outlook, AEI economist and global health expert Roger Bate highlights a peer-reviewed paper in Research and Reports in Tropical Medicine which exposes false claims about an insecticide-free malaria control project in Mexico and Central America--known as the Mexico/CA Project--managed by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
The project was designed to demonstrate successful control of malaria through the use of "environmentally sound" methods, such as whitewashing of houses, without DDT and other insecticides. Yet, a proper analysis of epidemiologic data revealed no such success. Malaria was reduced in many locations but this was not through the environmental interventions as claimed by UNEP, but by vast prophylactic uses of drugs.
In view of these results, Bate proposes that:
1.All claims made regarding the results of the Mexico/CA Project should be withdrawn, and the use of such claims in attempts to halt the use of DDT and other public health insecticides in other malarial regions should be stopped immediately.
2.GEF's malaria control funding should be removed and transferred to the WHO Global Malaria Program.
3.UNEP's timeline for DDT elimination by 2020 should be canceled, and a resolution should be passed that reaffirms the rights of countries to use DDT until a true replacement is found and made available.
Roger Bate is the Legatum Fellow in Global Prosperity at AEI. He is available for interviews and can be reached at [email protected] or through his assistant at [email protected] (202.862.7152). For help or additional media inquiries, please contact Hampton Foushee at [email protected] (202.862.5806).