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Commentary

The Constant Killer
Richard Tren, Campaign for Fighting Diseases, 10-12-05

Tren has written an impassioned call for reform of global antimalaria efforts. In particular, he attacks mismanagement and scare tactics, which have prevented international donors from backing preventive measures like indoor residual spraying (IRS) with DDT.

In Africa, more than a million children die every year from a completely preventable and curable disease - malaria. This scandalous situation persists not only because malaria has long played second fiddle to other diseases like HIV/AIDS, but because what international funds are available for malaria control, are spent badly.
And not only that, some governments actively frustrate effective malaria control, with the connivance and support of vested interests in the commercial sector. …

One of the best ways of controlling malaria is to spray tiny amounts of insecticide on the inside walls of houses where it either repels or kills the deadly Anopheles mosquitoes. Based on historic and contemporary evidence, one of the best insecticides for malaria control is DDT. Despite the bad press that DDT receives, when used in malaria control it poses no threat to the environment. …
Envious of successful malaria control involving DDT in southern Africa, the government of Uganda announced last year that it intended to use DDT in malaria control. Yet instead of assisting Uganda to save lives, the European Union threatened that all agricultural exports from Uganda would be barred in an outrageous abuse of science, public policy and ultimately, of power.

Tren shines light on one of the ugly secrets of foreign aid: politics plays a big role in how international donors (including the USAID and the EU) spend their funding. Until malaria aid is tied to achieving measurable goals with validated methods, billions of dollars will be spent to no good effect. Tren’s call for more funding of IRS (or other equally effective measures) should be heeded by everyone who cares about reducing malaria’s brutal death toll.



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