Malawian MPs in bizarre debate over use of DDT to fight malaria

2010-12-11 07:28

Blantyre – The controversial insecticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) should not be used to fight malaria in Malawi because it reduced men’s sexual performance, a newspaper report yesterday quoted a government official as saying.

“The side-effects of DDT in men are that men easily get tired, and there is a reduction in libido and sperm production,” Andrew Daudi, principal secretary in the ministry of agriculture, was quoted as saying by the Weekend Times.

The insecticide is banned in Malawi, as in most other countries, but members of parliament’s Committee on Health and Population have called for its return despite its dangers to the environment.

They say it is more effective than other chemicals used to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes responsible for the deaths of thousands of people here every year.

Rabson Chirwa, an MP also quoted in the report, disagreed with Daudi.

“Should we be dying of malaria because men want to produce more sperm and because men want to have libido? These reasons do not hold water,” Chirwa said.

Neither referred to the chemical’s detrimental effect on wildlife, the environment and human health, which led to it being banned by the United States in the 1970s and most other nations subsequently.

Malawi’s campaign to fight malaria by providing free or cheap mosquito nets had failed to curb the number of deaths caused by the disease, the government said in March, prompting some MPs to argue that the use of DDT is merited.

Up to 7 000 Malawians died of malaria in 2009, with 4.5 million cases recorded.

Health experts say the government spends about $7 million (R48 million) annually to treat malaria cases.

DDT is a contact poison that can ward off disease-carrying insects such as mosquitoes. It was used to great effect to fight malaria during World War 2, leading to its widespread subsequent use in agriculture.

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