who is stopping non-UN affiliated charities from spraying Africa with DDT?

I have often seen claims to the effect that the decision of some elements in UN, Western governments and similar to avoid use of DDT (for reasons that depend on who is telling the story) is the reason why malaria was not exterminated there. Well, so I understand that if American government doesn’t give money for that, then the affiliated charities don’t do that. But, who was (and is) stopping other charities as well as the African governments themselves from doing the 1950s-style mosquito extermination campaigns on their own?

There are plenty of charities out there soliciting money to give Africans food, condoms and sustainable something or other. So why doesn’t anybody start a charity for the noble cause of wiping out malarial mosquitos in a particular area of Africa using DDT? How much does this sort of stuff cost anyway, based on what we know from past experience of campaigns in Latin America and Asia?

DDT was overused for agricultural purposes, and a lot of the mosquitoes became pretty resistant. I wonder how long that kind of thing stays around in a population.

yeah, but that’s in the West. In Africa it was not used for agricultural purposes and so mosquitoes don’t know anything about it so far.

DDT will not eliminate malaria. True, it would likely reduce deaths by the disease by a good amount. However, it does do damage to the environment, esp if used poorly, as it was in the West for a couple of decades.

However, DDT is still used, but often without approval of the WHO, who monitors it’s use to prevent mosquito resistance:

wiki"Resistance has greatly reduced DDT’s effectiveness. WHO guidelines require that absence of resistance must be confirmed before using the chemical.[90] Resistance is largely due to agricultural use, in much greater quantities than required for disease prevention. According to one study that attempted to quantify the lives saved by banning agricultural use and thereby slowing the spread of resistance, “it can be estimated that at current rates each kilo of insecticide added to the environment will generate 105 new cases of malaria.”[21]
Resistance was noted early in spray campaigns. Paul Russell, a former head of the Allied Anti-Malaria campaign, observed in 1956 that “resistance has appeared [after] six or seven years.”[19] DDT has lost much of its effectiveness in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Turkey and Central America, and it has largely been replaced by organophosphate or carbamate insecticides, e.g. malathion or bendiocarb.[91]
In many parts of India, DDT has also largely lost its effectiveness.[92] Agricultural uses were banned in 1989, and its anti-malarial use has been declining. Urban use has halted completely.[93] Nevertheless, DDT is still manufactured and used,[94] and one study had concluded that “DDT is still a viable insecticide in indoor residual spraying owing to its effectivity in well supervised spray operation and high excito-repellency factor.”[95]

Mind you, there’s no force stopping nations or NGOs from buying it and spraying it. Just that they often won;t get any finacnial support if they do so without WHO oversight. It’s about the $$.

wiki "It has also been alleged that donor governments and agencies have refused to fund DDT spraying, or made aid contingent upon not using DDT. According to a report in the British Medical Journal, use of DDT in Mozambique “was stopped several decades ago, because 80% of the country’s health budget came from donor funds, and donors refused to allow the use of DDT.”[116] Roger Bate asserts, “many countries have been coming under pressure from international health and environment agencies to give up DDT or face losing aid grants: Belize and Bolivia are on record admitting they gave in to pressure on this issue from [USAID].”[117]
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been the focus of much criticism. While the agency is currently funding the use of DDT in some African countries,[118] in the past it did not. W… USAID’s Kent R. Hill states that the agency has been misrepresented: “USAID strongly supports spraying as a preventative measure for malaria and will support the use of DDT when it is scientifically sound and warranted.”[120] …The website further explains that in many cases alternative malaria control measures were judged to be more cost-effective that DDT spraying, and so were funded instead.[121]"

DDT,when used for human protection, concentrates in breast milk, generally considered a “bad thing”. Also, when it is approved for "limited use " in homes, it very often gets diverted to agri use, which is not good either.

It’s a complicated issue, with no easy answers.

  1. There are only 2 companies still manufacturing DDT anymore, both in India, and under pressure from environmentalists. So the price of DDT is quite high now.

  2. Mosquitoes become resistant to DDT pretty quickly, usually within a half dozen years.

So the net result of these is generally that other mosquito prevention programs are more cost effective nowadays.

if DDT is expensive, why don’t more companies (probably existing chemicals manufacturers who can use some of their spare capacity for this) enter the marketplace and drive down the price?

I understand the argument about Western pressure on African governments to prohibit DDT. So basically Westerners bribe African leaders (who might not give a damn about their peasants anyway) to prohibit the use of DDT.

As far as “complexity” issues pointed out upthread, that ain’t serious, folks. There is a lot of “complexity” in whether or not giving food aid like Bono’s activities is a good thing or bad thing. Yet Bono keeps doing that because he has money and that’s how he wishes to spend it. Presumably there could be people willing to spend money on DDT spraying regardless of any “complexities”, unless either just nobody gives a damn about the issue or else the government prohibits it and makes the prohibition stick.

Just spraying DDT willy-nilly won’t stop malaria for very long. In order for spraying to have lasting effects, it needs to be paired with an aggressive campaign to eliminate standing water- which may include draining swamps and marshes, flyovers identifying mosquito breeding grounds on private property, and prompt treatment of any cases. It is a massive, massive project that basically cannot be done without full government support. If you are just spraying, then all you are doing is beating back the hordes for a while until they develop resistance. You need a multi-pronged approach- of which DDT can play a role but does not have to- and (most importantly) governments and communities that have the capacity to carry it out.

Additionally, you can’t start small. You need to cover a large area with one all-out assault, otherwise the mosquitos from surrounding areas will just re-colonize. This is obviously a problem in remote areas and conflict areas. This was one major reason why malaria eradication in the 1960s failed- it was to hard to get so many parties to work together in a situation where timing is everything.

Malaria has become a much larger problem than it was in the 1960s. There are a lot of factors, but a lot relate to human behavior. Migrant workers in the cities lose the limited resistance they have to the strains in their hometowns, and then fall ill when they go to visit home on holidays. Fake drugs contribute to resistance. Commerce brings people into virgin forests for logging. There are lots of reasons. But DDT was not the most important factor- malaria was effectively fought for years without it.

As mentioned, major aid organizations do use DDT in their malaria control efforts when it’s useful.

Why don’t more small organizations focus on DDT? I imagine if you start large-scale spraying without government support, you’re going to get kicked out in short order. You can’t just walk into a country and start dropping stuff out of planes because you’ve decided you know what is best for them.

Anyway, DDT is not magic. It doesn’t do anything that a number of other techniques can’t do just as effectively. It’s just one tool in a box.

The fundamental problem is not that we don’t have the tools to eliminate malaria. We have a number of effective ways to eliminate malaria with or without DDT. The problem is that we don’t have the funding and organizational capacity to get it done. That is what is missing, and DDT can’t fix that.