For Release: April 25, 2008
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11
or [email protected]
World Malaria Day Marked By Call for Action: Millions at Risk
Washington, D.C. - In observance of the very first "World Malaria Day," an activist with the Project 21 black leadership network is calling upon establishment environmentalist groups and global health administrators to rethink their opposition to the use of the pesticide DDT.
"Malaria is a devastating disease that has ravaged the world. When the United States virtually eradicated it over 50 years ago, it wasn't by passing out nets and treating the infected. It was the aggressive use of effective pesticides that eliminated disease-carrying mosquitoes before they could infect people," said Project 21 member Bishop Council Nedd II, who has helped lead non-governmental organizations to World Health Organization (WHO) conferences. "I have sat in meetings and heard representatives from groups such as Medecins Sans Frontieres and Knowledge Ecology International complain about the lack of new malaria drugs, knowing full well that a new malaria drug at best is merely treating the symptom, not addressing the root problem. I was met with silence and stares when I pointed out their paternalistic double standard."
According to the WHO, the group behind World Malaria Day, approximately a half-billion people a year contract the disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine to combat malaria. WHO spokeswoman Katie Gates told the Voice of America that by-products of rampant malaria in developing countries include poverty, illegal immigration and government instability. She cited studies claiming African countries collectively lose $12 billion a year in economic growth due to factors such as malaria-related spending and sick workers unable to work.
While the pesticide DDT was successful in virtually eliminating malaria in the American South by the early 1950s, the subsequent ban on its use due to lobbying by environmental groups often prevents its use today. WHO malaria policy instead relies on bed nets coated with often less-effective pesticides and drugs to treat people who are already infected.
The use of DDT was banned in the United States in 1972. Environmental groups are still seeking a worldwide ban on its use, despite evidence that initial concerns about hazards associated with its use may be overstated. For example, a 2005 study on human health risks related to exposure to DDT conducted by the National Institute of Health and the University of Cagliari in Italy found that "occupational exposure to DDT... did not show any clear excess for any cause of death."
In September of 2007, Project 21 published a New Visions Commentary, "Anti-DDT Policies Are Deadly for Africa" by Thompson Ayodele and Adegoke Anthony of the Institute for Public Policy Analysis in Lagos, Nigeria, that is available at http://nationalcenter.org/P21NVAyodeleDDT90707.html. In that commentary, Ayodele and Anthony wrote:
Africa essentially became a sacrifice zone where environmental ideologies demand that only politically-correct tools like bed nets be used to prevent the disease that is still the biggest single killer of our children. It is a crime against humanity to ban DDT and leave over 300 million African mothers, fathers and children to suffer every year from acute malaria.
Even today, 65 years after it was first used in disease control, no other chemical works as well for as long or at a lower cost in stopping malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases than DDT. There is no proof that it is harmful to people or animals when used responsibly. That is why hundreds of physicians, clergy and human rights advocates have demanded that it be put back into the malaria control arsenal.
Additional New Visions Commentaries discussing the need to rethink restrictions on the use of DDT were written by Project 21 members Bob Parks (http://www.nationalcenter.org/P21NVParksEnvironment90408.html) and Stella Dulanya (http://www.nationalcenter.org/P21NVDulanyaGreen90807.html).
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or [email protected], or visit Project 21's website at www.project21.org/P21Index.html.