KILLING AFRICAN KIDS
by Virginia Postrel • Apr 19, 2004 at 10:38 pm
I read it a week late, but this Tina Rosenberg NYT Magazine article made my blood boil:
Yet what really merits outrage about DDT today is not that South Africa still uses it, as do about five other countries for routine malaria control and about 10 more for emergencies. It is that dozens more do not. Malaria is a disease Westerners no longer have to think about. Independent malariologists believe it kills two million people a year, mainly children under 5 and 90 percent of them in Africa. Until it was overtaken by AIDS in 1999, it was Africa's leading killer. One in 20 African children dies of malaria, and many of those who survive are brain-damaged. Each year, 300 to 500 million people worldwide get malaria. During the rainy season in some parts of Africa, entire villages of people lie in bed, shivering with fever, too weak to stand or eat. Many spend a good part of the year incapacitated, which cripples African economies. A commission of the World Health Organization found that malaria alone shrinks the economy in countries where it is most endemic by 20 percent over 15 years. There is currently no vaccine. While travelers to malarial regions can take prophylactic medicines, these drugs are too toxic for long-term use for residents.
Yet DDT, the very insecticide that eradicated malaria in developed nations, has been essentially deactivated as a malaria-control tool today. The paradox is that sprayed in tiny quantities inside houses -- the only way anyone proposes to use it today -- DDT is most likely not harmful to people or the environment. Certainly, the possible harm from DDT is vastly outweighed by its ability to save children's lives.
Two million people a year, most of them little kids, are dying because of the West's anti-DDT superstition. Two...million...people...a...year.
Anti-DDT taboos undoubtedly kill even more than that, since the debilitation caused by malaria helps keep Africa desperately poor. But, hey, they're Africans. We got rid of malaria here, so we don't give a damn. I bet the NYT Mag gets letters from people outraged at Rosenberg's audacity in pointing out the problem.