Friday, December 30, 2011
Malaria remains a major public health challenge in many countries. 2008 WHO estimates were 243 million cases, and 863,000 deaths. About 89% of these deaths occur in Africa, and mostly to children under the age of 5...
Once the mainstay of anti-malaria campaigns, as of 2008 only 12 countries used DDT, including India and some southern African states...
Effectiveness of DDT against malaria When it was first introduced in World War II, DDT was very effective in reducing malaria morbidity and mortality. The WHO's anti-malaria campaign, which consisted mostly of spraying DDT, was initially very successful as well. For example, in Sri Lanka, the program reduced cases from about 3 million per year before spraying to just 29 in 1964. Thereafter the program was halted to save money and malaria rebounded to 600,000 cases in 1968
There is no question that DDT use in the 1950s did reduce deaths from around 1 1/2 million a year to 10s of thousands and that the total differential since then amounts to around 70 million.
Nor, despite Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and the decades of subsequent scare stories about DDT, that it has never been definitely proven to have killed a single human being. Indeed that it has sometimes been used as a medicine
The arguments against using DDT in a massive way are (A) that it is very dangerous and (B) that extensive use will bring about reduced effectiveness.
(A) is clearly a false ecofascist scare story. This article 100 Things You Should Know about DDT must be be read by anybody wishing to pontificate on the subject and with the remotest interest in not killing more millions of people. There is no serrious evidence of danger, even to birds where the most serious claims have been made. There is no possibility that even unknown effects could render it 1,000th as damaging as the disease it prevents. In terms of human life the DDT ecofascist fraud has been even more damaging than the Linear No Threshold radiation ecofascist fraud which, in turn, has been more damaging that the current catastrophic warming ecofascist scare.
(B) is not altogether false. Almost any chemical used in quantity will, over time, through evolution, cause some reduced effectiveness. However firstly it appears to be being considerably exaggerated since it is now the sole credible argument opponents have. Secondly it is not so much an argument against using it at all, as an argument for using it in large doses, quickly. In particular - small doses are most guaranteed to breed resistance since it is bound not to have a total effect.
. Also if long term breeding of resistance is a fear then ending the problem quickly is the obvious choice.
Therefore if we really want to effectively end these deaths I propose a massive international campaign of malaria eradication using DDT to a full extent.
Perhaps this might not entirely eliminate it everywhere, as smallpox was, because there are natural reservoirs of malaria whereas smallpox needed to live in humans. On the other hand the history is on our side. Malaria has been very much more extensive than it is currently. Malaria used to kill 10s of thousands in Britain. The same, but moreso, applied to the USA, making the southern states a death trap for white men. Even within the Arctic circle it killed 10s of thousands around Murmansk in northern Russia during WW1. It is effectively extinct in all of these now. There were other reasons than DDT, indeed it disappeared in Britain before DDT was discovered but that is all the more reason for believing it can be eradicated. The example of Sri Lanka given above does suggest that only a little more effort in 1964 would have cut the last 0.001%.
The world is far richer than in 1964 and medicine far better developed. Clearly if we could come that close then it will be far easier now. It would be a big programme but we could save many millions of lives.
If the political will is there.