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Opinion: DDT and Malaria, Malnutrition, Religious Institutions To Fight Malaria, U.N. Needs Focus on Gender Equality

DDT De-emphasis is ‘Victory For Politics Over Public Health’

The WHO’s recent decision to “quietly” go back on its 2006 endorsement of the widespread use of the insecticide DDT for malaria control is a “victory for politics over public health, and millions of the world’s poor will suffer as a result,” according to a Wall Street Journal editorial. In 2006, Arata Kochi, the head of the WHO’s malaria program, said DDT is the “most effective” insecticide to use for indoor residual spraying. According to the Wall Street Journal, Kochi was “right then, even if other WHO officials are now bowing to pressure to pretend otherwise” (Wall Street Journal, 5/26). 

Investment in Malnutrition ‘Hugely Needed

Malnutrition and other hardships in developing countries “have been exacerbated by elevated food prices and declining remittances from workers abroad,” columnist Nicholas Kristof writes in a New York Times opinion piece. However, malnutrition – which is about not getting the right micronutrients, such as iodine, iron, vitamin A and zinc – is “routinely neglected by everybody,” Kristof writes. There are a number of ways to handle malnutrition – such as food fortification, which costs “virtually nothing” – and would reduce anemia, maternal mortality and cognitive impairments, according to Kristof. He concludes, “None of this is glamorous, but it’s hugely needed – and truly a bargain” (Kristof, New York Times, 5/24).

Religious Institutions Have Valuable Role To Play in Malaria Fight

Nigeria cannot reach its goal of fighting malaria with the distribution of 60 million insecticide-treated nets “without the active cooperation of mosques and churches,” Michael Gerson, a columnist, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece. “Houses of worship are distribution points where no clinic exists,” Gerson writes, adding that the Muslim-Christian organization, Nigeria Interfaith Action Association, has launched to coordinate malaria control efforts. “It is true that religion can contribute to conflict,” according to Gerson, who writes that faith “can also be a source of health… as hundreds of thousands of Nigerian children may live to witness” (Gerson, Washington Post, 5/22).

U.N. Lacks ‘Serious Focus’ on Gender Equality

“The most lamentable and heart-breaking dimension of multilateralism” is the “absence of any serious focus on gender throughout” the U.N. system, Stephen Lewis, founder of AIDS-Free World, writes in a London Independent opinion piece. He adds, “[W]hether it is poverty alleviation, or HIV and AIDS, or sexual violence and conflict, the whole panoply of discrimination visited on women around the world, particularly in developing countries, the U.N.’s agencies and the Secretariat have been profoundly delinquent in their response.” According to Lewis, the “struggle for gender equality has become the most important struggle on the planet; the continuing marginalization of 52% of the world’s population is simply unacceptable.” He adds, “So we’re now engaged in an effort to create a new international agency for women, a fascinating undertaking that I hope will engage” governments (Lewis, Independent, 5/22).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.