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UNEP Should Work To Bring About Safe Alternatives To DDT For Malaria Vector Control

Some countries in Africa “still rely on dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) for [malaria] vector control,” therefore “[i]t is … problematic that the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), without the consent of member states, and violating its own treaties, exerts relentless pressure to ban DDT globally,” Richard Tren, director of Africa Fighting Malaria, and Richard Nchabi Kamwi, Nambia’s minister of health and social services, write in a BMJ opinion piece. Nineteen countries reserve the right to use DDT under the 2000 Stockholm Convention, which “made an exception for DDT in disease vector control,” and the WHO endorses DDT, “arguing that a premature shift to less effective or more costly alternatives will have a negative impact on disease burden,” the authors state.

“Yet despite this endorsement and admirable malaria control results, UNEP is trying to eliminate DDT” by “repeatedly advocating deadlines for elimination” against the Stockholm Convention mandate, and is “encouraging India, the only country that makes DDT, to stop producing it,” according to Tren and Kamwi. The authors write that the Stockholm Convention “aspires to eliminating DDT eventually but eschews deadlines and demands that locally safe, effective, and affordable alternatives are implemented first.” They note that the African Leader’s Malaria Alliance, the Southern African Development Community, and “[e]ven UNEP’s own DDT expert group thin[k] that DDT is still needed for malaria vector control in certain settings.” Instead of advocating for a deadline to eliminate DDT, “UNEP should follow the Stockholm Convention and encourage measured steps, probably requiring decades of research, to bring about safe, effective, and affordable alternatives that one day will make DDT redundant,” they state (10/10).

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