Africa Malaria Day: Action or Bombast?

Thursday's Editorial   —   Posted on April 27, 2006

(by Roy Innis, Townhall.com) – Every year, 400 million African parents and children are stricken by malaria. Many are unable to work, cultivate fields, attend school or care for their families, for weeks on end. Others are permanently brain damaged. Nearly 1 million die.

Every year, Africa Malaria Day (April 25) brings promises to control the disease. But the calls for action are mere bombast, as healthcare agencies emphasize “capacity building,” the European Union and radical greens continue to obstruct proven strategies, and disease and death rates climb.

This year, though, things may be different.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, and hundreds of physicians, clergy and human rights advocates have joined me in demanding that DDT be put back into the malaria control arsenal. (See FightingMalaria.org) Congress now supports indoor DDT spraying as a vital component of any successful malaria control program, and the U.S. Agency for International Development has initiated DDT and other insecticide spraying programs in several countries.

Sprayed in small quantities, just twice a year, on the walls and eaves of mud-and-thatch or cinder-block homes, it keeps 90% of mosquitoes from entering and irritates any that do come in, so they rarely bite. No other insecticide – at any price – does that. Of course, it also kills those that land on walls.

Used this way, virtually no DDT even reaches the environment. But the results are astounding.

Within two years of starting DDT programs, South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Swaziland slashed their malaria rates by 75% or more. With fewer people getting sick, they could get ACT drugs to nearly all victims, cutting rates even further.

Other countries want to launch similar programs. However, the EU is again warning of possible agricultural export sanctions against Uganda, Kenya and other countries that use DDT to save lives. Previous threats were pointed and direct; the latest are more oblique.

“Nothing will happen, at least on the official side, if they decide to use DDT in strict compliance with the Stockholm Convention” on chemicals, the EU’s trade representative to Uganda said recently. But the EU has “no control” over environmental and consumer organizations that might pressure supermarkets to stop selling agricultural products from those nations, he claimed.

So if callous activists emphasize overblown risks from trace amounts of insecticides – and ignore the very real, life-or-death risks that insecticides could prevent – the EU’s hands are tied. It can’t even issue an official statement, attesting that DDT is safe and represents no threat to EU consumers.

The struggle for human rights – for the fundamental right to life itself – is obviously not over.

Malaria once killed thousands of Americans annually, from New York to California, from Florida and Louisiana to Michigan and Alaska. Even in the 1930s, it reduced the industrial output of our southern states by a third.

In Europe, Cromwell died from malaria, Charles II and Louis XIV nearly perished, and Rome was saved several times from Germanic armies whose ranks were decimated by the deadly fever. From Italy and Romania to Poland and the English Channel, malarial mosquitoes ruled over Europe for centuries. Homegrown malaria was not eradicated in Europe until 1959.

Aggressive interventions, including widespread use of DDT, finally ended its deadly grip. Once the United States and Europe became malaria-free, however, they began to impose restrictions that have perpetuated malaria elsewhere, especially in Africa.

They banned DDT, while grudgingly leaving a rarely honored exception in the Stockholm Convention. With few exceptions, aid agencies refused to supply or support the use of insecticides, especially DDT. They still promote bed nets and education – while awaiting a vaccine that’s still a decade away, and mud-and-thatch huts miraculously becoming modern homes with doors and window screens.

Not surprisingly, there has been another Holocaust of Africans every few years, and malaria deaths since the 1972 DDT ban may exceed the entire World War II death toll. It is a travesty worse than colonialism ever was, a human rights violation of monstrous proportions.

I have seen this devastation with my own eyes. Malaria destroyed the lives of my wife’s African friends and family members. Last Christmas, my nephew returned to a Ugandan school that he sponsors, to find that 50 of its 500 young students had died from malaria in just 12 months. My daughter-in-law lost two sisters, two nephews and her little son.

It’s time for Europe to end its deadly policies. Individual countries and the EU Parliament must issue an unequivocal declaration, supporting DDT as a vital component of any malaria control program. Affirming the right of every country’s health minister to decide which weapons to use in combating disease. Agreeing to support insecticide spraying programs. Saying trade bans and lethal supermarket campaigns will not be tolerated. And pledging to penalize any country or organization that tries to block life-saving insecticide programs.

For too long, the European Union, environmental groups and healthcare agencies let horribly misguided policies perpetuate malaria’s global reign of terror. They have it within their power to save millions of lives, and improve health and economic conditions for billions.

If they can find the necessary moral clarity and political willpower, countless mothers and daughters, fathers and sons will be spared the ravages of this killer disease. And we will celebrate, rather than merely commemorate, the next Africa Malaria Day.

Roy Innis is national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), one of the USA’s oldest and most respected civil rights organizations.

Posted at Towhhall.com April 22, 2006.  Reprinted here with permission from Townhall.com and Roy Innis.  Visit the websites at Townhall.com and CORE-Online.org.

Questions

1.  There are many challenging words in this commentary.  How many of the following words can you match with their definitions?

_____ malaria
_____ bombast
_____ arsenal
_____ DDT
_____ vital
_____ component
_____ insecticide
_____ oblique
_____ callous
_____ decimated
_____ eradicated
_____ perpetuated
_____ travesty
_____ unequivocal

a) a type of insecticide used mainly to kill malarial mosquitos
b) a chemical substance used to kill various insects
c) expressed in a clear and certain way
d) necessary for success; extremely important
e) indirect, so that the real meaning is not immediately clear
f) something which fails to represent the values and qualities that it is intended to represent, in a way that is shocking or offensive
g) unkind or cruel
h) pompous speech or writing
i) to kill a large number of something
j) an infectious disease characterized by cycles of chills, fever, and sweating, caused by a bite from a mosquito carrying the disease
k) to get rid of completely or destroy something bad
l) continuing forever in the same way
m) a collection of weapons (used to fight an enemy)
n) one part of something

2.  What does the U.S. Congress support as a vital part of any successful malaria control program? (paragraph 4)

3.  What effect does indoor DDT spraying twice a year have on mosquitoes? (5)  How does this indoor spraying affect the environment? (6)

4.  List four African countries that started DDT programs.  What effect have the programs had on malaria rates in those countries? (7)

5.  What organizations/governments does Mr. Innis blame for the existence of malaria in Africa? (8-10, 15)

6.  What has the EU (European Union) warned will be the consequence for those African countries using DDT?  How does Mr. Innis suggest (in paragraph 10) the EU could help those countries with that problem?

7.  Why are the U.S. and Europe malaria-free? (14)

8.  List the five steps that are necessary to eliminate malaria in Africa, according to Mr. Innis. (18)

9.  What does Mr. Innis hope will make the difference this year in the use of DDT to fight malaria in Africa? (4)

10.  What do you think of the EU’s stand on the use of DDT to fight malaria?  List some things you can do to help fight malaria in Africa.  Go to FightingMalaria.org for more information.