(Beyond Pesticides, May 17, 2012) Rather than investing in safe, long-term solutions to prevent malaria mortality, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a strategic plan that calls for multiple toxic pesticides to combat mosquito resistance to insecticides that is showing up in sub-Saharan Africa. Insecticide resistance, according to the WHO report, is already rampant in 64 malaria-ridden countries and may result in as many as 26 million more cases of malaria a year, which could end up costing between $30 and $60 million annually for tests and medication.
Mosquitoes in sub-Saharan African countries are becoming resistant to pyrethroid insecticides, which are used extensively for household spraying and treating bed nets, as well as to the organochloride compound DDT -which is still used in many parts of the world to control mosquitoes. In Somalia, Sudan and Turkey, resistance has spread to carbamates and organophosphates in addition to pyrethroids and organochloride pesticides. Rather than reducing the reliance on these products, WHO is recommending rotating classes of pesticides used to spray inside homes and developing a new non-pyrethroid insecticide to treat bed nets. Implementation for these suggestions are estimated to cost around $200 million, which is in addition to the $6 billion that the WHO requested last year for existing malaria-control programs.
According to Pesticide Action Network (PAN) , control programs to fight malaria have so far been based on three different interventions: a) the use of bed nets, b) spraying insecticides – including DDT — indoors and c) medical treatment of malaria victims and pregnant women. Though there has been a 25% overall drop in the mortality rate of malaria since 2000, a reliance on chemical programs to combat a pest problem is not a sustainable approach, because the predicable consequence of repeated pesticide use results in resistance
Malaria is both preventable and curable, and the global community must build on the success of those countries that have successfully controlled it. From Mexico to Vietnam to Kenya, the most successful programs are those that rely on community participation and full commitment of the national government to combat the disease. Improved health care infrastructure along with environmental management, widespread use of bed nets and other community-specific solutions are key to success.
PAN Germany and PAN Africa began a pilot program in Senegal in 2011 to implement an ecological and community-based system to control Malaria, which takes into account the type and number of vectors and parasites, identifies existing resistance, analyzes the local epidemiology and ecosystem, and takes into account the economic and social situation.
Beyond Pesticides advocates fighting malaria without poisoning future generations of children in malaria hot spots. “We should be advocating for a just world where we no longer treat poverty and development with poisonous band-aids, but join together to address the root causes of insect-borne disease, because the chemical-dependent alternatives are ultimately deadly for everyone,” says Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.