NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

South Africa Resumes DDT Use

March 31, 2004

African children die from malaria at the alarming rate of about one every 30 seconds. Despite this bleak statistic, much of the continent still refuses to use the pesticide DDT, says Roger Bate, director of the organization Africa Fighting Malaria.

Meanwhile, South Africa has reintroduced DDT and Coartem, a new anti-Malarial drug. Both measures have proven very successful in combating malaria, says Bate:

  • The death rate from malaria was around 50 per year, with only a few thousand cases reported annually when South Africa halted the use of DDT in 1996 due to pressure from environmentalists.
  • After replacing DDT with other, less-effective insecticides, 80,000 cases and 500 deaths annually were reported by the year 2000; in one province alone, cases increased from 8,000 to 42,000 over four years.
  • While prophylactic drugs and insecticide-treated bed netting are effective malaria preventatives, they are much more costly than DDT, particularly for a continent such as Africa that spends less than $10 per person annually on health care.
  • Within 18 months after resuming DDT treatments and introducing Coartem, malaria cases and deaths were reduced by 85 percent.

While the drug Coartem is more expensive than existing drugs, it has become affordable to South Africa when used in combination with DDT spraying, since there are fewer malaria cases to treat. Moreover, while cheaper drugs are endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), they tend to produce resistance in patients and work only about 25 percent of the time.

According to Bate, far more Africans are dying than necessary simply due to the policies and politics of the "eco-imperialism actively pursued by the WHO, GlobalFund and USAID."

Source: Roger Bate, "Death to Mosquitoes - DDT is Saving Lives in South Africa," The Weekly Standard, March 1, 2004 and Richard Tren and Roger Bate, "South Africa's War Against Malaria: Lessons for the Developing World," Policy Analysis 513, Cato Institute.

For study text


Browse more articles on Environment Issues