Acton Institute Powerblog

Add DDT to the Malaria-Fighting Arsenal

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Acton Senior Fellow Marvin Olasky in a column today on looks at the “important new coalition” called Kill Malarial Mosquitoes Now that is working to bring the banned pesticide DDT back into battle against malaria. The disease, he writes, kills an estimated 1 million people annually — 90 percent of them Africans.

The United States has been contributing about $200 million per year to Africa’s war on malaria. Four months ago, President Bush promised an additional $1.2 billion over five years in U.S. anti-malaria funding. But last week, a coalition of 100 doctors, scientists and activists said that anti-malaria funds up to now have been misspent.

The KMMN coalition — which includes eminent malaria experts and public health specialists, the former U.S. Navy surgeon general, the national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, a co-founder of Greenpeace, the president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce and the president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons — says most of the annual $200 million goes to advising African governments on how to combat malaria, not on actual combat.

The KMMN coalition says that none of that money goes for the most effective weapon: the insecticide DDT, which eradicated malaria in Europe and the United States more than half a century ago, but was banned in the United States in 1972 because of its supposed environmental effects. Soon, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Agency for International Development cut out DDT from its programs.

Read the “Kill Malarial Mosquitoes Now!” declaration and add your name to the growing list of endorsers by emailing “info [at] acton [dot] org” with your name, degrees, and organizational affiliation. Acton will forward your name to the Africa Fighting Malaria advocacy group.

Steven Milloy, publisher of and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, argues that “there is no economical substitute for DDT when it comes to malaria in poorer regions of the world.”

When DDT is available, the results are nothing short of spectacular. Indoor spraying with DDT, for example, reduced malaria cases and deaths by nearly 75 percent in Zambia over a two-year period and by 80 percent in South Africa in just one year. DDT works like nothing else – there’s simply no doubt about it.

For these reasons, we ought to support a bill in Congress (currently it’s known as the Senate version of H.R. 3057) that would reform the U.S. Agency for International Development so that insecticides like DDT could be added to the arsenal for fighting malaria. President Bush announced in July that U.S. taxpayers would spend $1.2 billion for world malaria control over the next five years.

Rather than wasting that money on ineffective bed nets and anti-malaria drugs – and then repeating such futility in another five years – let’s spend it on DDT and get the job done now.

John Couretas John Couretas is Director of Communications, responsible for print and online communications at the Acton Institute. He has more than 20 years of experience in news and publishing fields. He has worked as a staff writer on newspapers and magazines, covering business and government. John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Humanities from Michigan State University and a Master of Science Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University.


  • The Kill Malarial Mosquitoes NOW! coalition announced today that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has endorsed the campaign use DDT as a primary weapon in the fight to control and eliminate malaria. The coalition wants 2/3 of world’s malaria control

  • Florence

    millions are dying of malaria. how many millions die of DDT? I’ve had malaria..we must use DDT to eradicate malaria and save millions of lives…before more millions die….why isn’t this being done??? Send the scientists and nay sayers into malaria infested territory and let them experience first hand the full and horrible malaria disease…then they’ll use DDT without hesitation…

  • The day we went to see our first clinic around the area of Mozambique is etched in my brain. The clinic itself was a one story , very rustic 3 room structure made of wood. The staff was very kind and very dedicated, but the building was not only missing screens on the windows, but some of the panes of glass where missing all together. We embarrassed the staff unduly when we asked them why there where no bed nets over the 4 or so hospital beds. It had not occurred to them to buy them because bed nets are very expensive relative to their other expenses and they simply could not afford them. And yet, malaria was one of the primary maladies they dealt with. The reality is this, when we went out into the village , we were able to visit several homes. These homes, where quaint and well kept wood structures with dirt floors, impeccably cleaned and ordered. And all the beds we saw were neatly made with bed nets dutifully pulled over a large number of those that belonged to the children. But the nets for the most part where full of holes. Some of which had been sewn, most of which had not been. For me it raised many serious questions about bed nets. They are expensive to buy, even for a medical clinic, and they are hard to maintain, I imagine especially around the very children they are meant to protect. It is so very hot in Mozambique and it can get dark as early as 6pm. When darkness falls the mosquitoes come out. How feasible is it really for children to stay in their beds under very hot bed nets? How long before those bed nets get holes? Would an American child be able to sit on their bed from 6pm until dawn the next day? Every day? Would there not be holes in the bed nets before long? How much time does a parent have to sew and re-sew those holes to the extent that a tiny mosquito cannot make its way through? What happens when a child needs to go to the bathroom?
    Would an American child be able to stand this set up on a hot night with no air conditioning? This is what we are asking of an African child. This what some NGOs and other organizations are insisting is at least part (if not all) of the solution in fighting malaria. To be honest , it boggles my mind. I have to question this. Is this reasonable? What have I missed in the equation? I am doing a documentary on Malaria presently and though I consider myself a die-hard environmentalist in many ways, (see I cannot help question how it is, that these countries do not feel comfortable using DDT for fear of repercussions from having their exports banned in countries like the US? How can we feel good about encouraging them to spray their walls with while on the other hand we threaten their economy with boycotts?What motivates this kind of strategy towards developing countries on the part of civilized countries? These are the questions that frequently come to mind.
    Helene Udy

  • Kofi Akosah in Accra, Ghana, writes in the latest Campaign for Fighting Diseases newsletter about the prospects for the use of DDT in fighting malaria in his home country. He first describes the devastation that the diesase wreaks: “More than 17 mil