In 2000, African leaders vowed to reduce malaria deaths by 50% in ten years. Tomorrow marks the ninth anniversary of the vow, and though it hasn't been fulfilled, we are drawing very close to another marker of malaria's toll: 100 million dead from malaria since the Environmental Protection Agency's 1972 ban on DDT, the insecticide best suited to combat malarial mosquitoes.
For comparison, the total number of people killed by cigarette smoking in the twentieth century is thought to be about 60 million, total casualties from World War II perhaps as high as 70 million, and the total killed by Communist regimes about 100 million. Thus, anti-chemical greens (inspired by Rachel Carson's fear-mongering book Silent Spring) may already be humanity's most prolific killers — and surely the most widely praised.
Africa Malaria Day was declared on April 25, 2000. President Bush noted Malaria Awareness Day on April 25, 2006. The World Health Organization decided in 2007 to begin marking World Malaria Day, with 2008 officially being the first and tomorrow the second — with just one year to go before the original ten-year deadline is reached.
To make real progress in time for World Malaria Day 2010, instead of gauging progress by government spending or how many times Jimmy Carter praises bed nets, how about simply getting government out of the way and letting DDT (which, at worst, has been accused, likely incorrectly, of thinning some bird eggshells) do its lifesaving work around the world, as it did in once-malarial Europe and America for three decades before the ban? (I made this point back in 2002, in an ACSH piece cited this year in the New York Times bestseller Liberty and Tyranny by Mark Levin.)
By means such as bed nets and an impending malaria vaccine, we are making commendable strides in fighting malaria, but this is not a fight we should be waging with the most effective weapon needlessly kept beyond our reach. End the ban. Save millions of lives. Not a hard choice.
Todd Seavey is Director of Publications at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH.org, HealthFactsAndFears.com) and will host a Debate at Lolita Bar at 8pm on Wednesday, May 6, on the question "Should Humans Radically Decrease Their Exploitation of Animals?"