Although malaria-related deaths have been declining, a new report in The Lancet puts a damper on this good news, suggesting that the decline is not nearly as significant as we had thought. According to the new study, there were 1.2 million deaths from the mosquito-borne disease in 2010 a number almost twice as high as the estimate published in the World Malaria Report 2011.
Malaria is still one of the leading causes of death in sub-Saharan Africa, but great progress is being made. According to the organization Africa Fighting Malaria (AFM), the incidence of malaria and malarial deaths has recently fallen by over 90 percent in several southern African countries. The recent decline is no small feat, given that malaria once killed over one million people each year mostly children under five and pregnant women. And as AFM points out, the tools for eradication of the disease do exist; the crucial step is to implement and sustain those strategies.
Last month, we reported on a study by Drs. Donald Roberts and Richard Tren of Africa Fighting Malaria on the life-saving anti-malaria benefits of DDT spraying. Predictably, the study received harsh but misguided criticism from frequent anti-DDT blogger Tim Lambert. Below is an excerpt from Dr. Roberts’ published counter-argument to Lambert’s “outrageous commentary [attempting] to claim our data were wrong:”
A new report which can be found here makes a devastating and overwhelming case that DDT spraying can save hundreds of thousands of lives every year and that UN and other NGO opposition to it is, as ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross puts it, “scientific fraud, as the authors document with copious evidence.” For any readers who may still have doubts about the issue, we suggest examining the evidence.
The underlying science used by a coalition of global public health groups to promote the restriction and ultimate banning of DDT use for eradication of malaria is false, dangerous and misguided, a new study published in the journal Research and Reports in Tropical Medicine says. Study authors Dr. Donald R. Roberts of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and Dr. Richard Tren, research fellow at the Environment Unit of the Institute of Economic Affairs, reviewed data from a Global Environment Facility (GEF) project conducted in Mexico and seven Central American countries from 2003 to 2008.
While the World Health Organization (WHO) reported yesterday that confirmed malaria cases in 11 African nations dropped by more than fifty percent over the last decade, these results were mitigated by a number of less welcome findings.
On Tuesday, the EPA proposed a $36 million plan to cap a deposit of the pesticide DDT on the ocean floor off the coast of Southern California by covering the seventeen-square-mile area declared a Superfund site in 1996 with sand and silt. According to Mark Gold, executive director of the watchdog group Heal the Bay, the cap won't clean the site, but it could reduce the health risks for people who eat fish caught off the Palos Verdes coast.
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.
Today is being commemorated around the globe as "World Malaria Day." Note, I didn't say "celebrated" -- clearly an inappropriate descriptor for a disease which, despite the availability of effective preventive measures, continues to kill over one-million impoverished people (mostly young children) annually. The toll of those sickened, both from health and economic perspectives, is incalculable but enormous.
A December 18, 2006 piece in Investor's Business Daily notes that when environmentalists got DDT banned, they may have boosted the death toll not only from malaria but from AIDS, since HIV appears to spread more readily in people suffering from malaria: Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health, said DDT prevented more human death and disease during its less than thirty years of widespread use (1944-72) than any other artificial chemical in recorded history.
A September 18, 2006 editorial from Investor's Business Daily applauds the World Health Organization's recent embrace of the pesticide DDT as a malaria-fighter, citing ACSH: According to Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health, during its less than 30 years of use (1944-72), DDT prevented more human death and disease than any other man-made chemical in all of recorded history.
Impoverished Africans should be grateful to philanthropist Lance Laifer for his effective outreach to reduce the tragic, needless toll of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa ("Malaria's Toll" by Jason Riley, editorial page, Aug. 21). For his attempt to focus complacent Americans, Mr. Riley also deserves thanks -- such clarity is obviously desperately needed, as even with all the publicity accorded to the ravages of malaria, someone as educated and intelligent as Mr. Laifer remained blithely unaware of this scourge until last year.