News from Uganda? DDT, cotton, misreporting


In continuing efforts to slam environmentalists and Rachel Carson, Instapundit and RWDB complain (whine?) about the European Union’s efforts to block the importation of cotton from Uganda on fears of DDT contamination.

Meanwhile, back in Kampala, the news is that the EU has done the opposite, and is encouraging the use of DDT officially, not blocking its use at all. If DDT is used to fight malaria and not in uncontrolled agricultural use simply to keep products blemish-free, in carefully-controlled sprayings, EU has no complaints.

Is there any western news agency with a stringer in Kampala who could chase this story down? Beck and Reynolds still offer no evidence to back their odd claims, but the story could sure benefit from a solid chunk of reporting from BBC, or Reuters, or Agence France Presse, or someone who could talk with the EU and Uganda officials.

Other resources:

Full text of report, below the fold.

Uganda allowed to spray DDT

New Vision, Thursday, 10th July, 2008

Mutagamba (right) chatting with to Kooki MP Mugumya Magulumaali at the seminar

Mutagamba (right) chatting with to Kooki MP Mugumya Magulumaali at the seminar

THE World Health Organisation and the European Union have allowed Uganda to spray the DDT chemical, the water and environment minister has said.

Ali Mambule reports that Maria Mutagamba said the Government would use the chemical, to kill mosquitoes that spread malaria.

The union had expressed reservations about the safety of Uganda’s agricultural products due to the spraying of the chemical, which was piloted in Apac and Oyam districts.

“You should now have no fear about the use of DDT concerning the market for our products,” Mutagamba said in Masaka town on Tuesday.

The minister, who was closing a seminar on the National Agricultural Advisory Services at Hotel Brovad, wondered why Ugandans feared the effects of DDT when they consumed products from countries where the chemical was used.

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2 Responses to News from Uganda? DDT, cotton, misreporting

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Adrian,

    Not only the gods, but the government and corporate interests must be crazy. It’s difficult to make heads or tails of the story from here in Dallas — I greatly appreciate your writing in to this blog.

    I agree that the court cases are vexing. Maybe more comment later.

    You make the case strongly that Uganda needs improvement in the health care system. Do you have information on whether WHO, the EU or US is working in any way to make improvements in the delivery of health care, especially in diagnosis and treatment? Do you think a campaign to educate malaria victims would be useful in getting them to take the entire course of the medicine?

    Is New Vision the best news outlet in Uganda? Are there other, outside publications or broadcasts that have influence?

    With regard to your other comment: Are the so-called environmental organizations opposing DDT real organizations, or are they Astro-turf organizations funded by corporate interests as stalking horses?

    Finally, have you seen any benefits from the private campaigns to fight malaria, from the Gates Foundation, or the Nothing-but-Nets campaign?

    Please keep writing. Sources of real information are difficult to find.

    Like

  2. adrian says:

    You asked about the current state vis-a-vis DDT IRS in Uganda. It remains blocked by the courts. Below is a copy of the letter I have written to the New Vision a national daily:

    To the Editor
    Readers might wish to know the High Court in Kampala, Uganda has ordered the Ministry of Health to cease Internal Residue Spraying (IRS) with DDT in two Districts in the north of the country, which have some of the highest malaria rates in the world. Malaria kills about 300 Ugandans daily, mainly pregnant women and babies.
    The Court was petitioned on behalf of a group of agricultural companies and conservation NGOs.
    The decision to suspend DDT spraying in Uganda is not surprising. The collection of businesses contesting its use wield huge economic power in a poor country. It is likely to drag on; lawyers love attempting the defeat of science by soap opera, it pays very well.
    What beggars my imagination is that one of the key ringleaders is British American Tobacco (Uganda). BATU is worried about DDT traces in its product. I know the levels of cognitive dissonance run high in tobacco Board Rooms but this is a landmark in absurdity. If BATU had any sense of shame it would not have a dog in this fight.
    Dunavant, an international company specializing in ‘organic cotton’ for the global market, is another key petitioner, concerned about DDT threatening its ‘organic’ designation. We should expect the labels of every designer tee-shirt boasting a ‘Ugandan organic cotton’ label to also carry the caveat, “300 Ugandans die every day to bring you this unique eco-friendly product”.
    All this to enable the wealthy and the pampered, posturing on the streets of New York, London and Tokyo, to brag that their Dunhill’s and Gucci’s are ‘organic’ and they are doing their bit to save the planet.
    60 years of rigorous science has shown that DDT, used in correctly, presents no ecological or human threat, its use in IRS is approved by the WHO. Yet a cabal of rich merchants and fanatical conservation NGOs choose to fly in the face of scientific opinion, for what? To pander to the rich in the developed world. If ever there was a metaphor for the gap between the rich and the poor, this is it.
    We can expect the businesses concerned to soon respond with a campaign of nauseating ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’, probably involving a deluge of Insecticide Treated Nets, a lot of cheesy grins and sweaty handshakes.

    Adrian Leitch
    Lira
    Northern Uganda
    0256 753945527

    Despite attempts by the MOH to get an early hearing and decision, things will drag on, I know the Ugandan legal system well enough. There is a rising tide of public opinion seeking rational public debate on the issue but I am pessimistic.
    To elaborate on one of your commentators, the environmental lobby has done such an outstanding job demonizing DDT over the past 40 years, it would take Rachel Carson herself to return from the grave and endorse DDT IRS to defeat the cabal of vested interests now arrayed against its use in Uganda.
    Moreover, the combined weight of international apathy about IRS and the trumpeting of buffoons like Geldorf that the ‘silver bullet ‘ solution to the malaria plague is ITNs for all, leads me to the depressing conclusion that things will get a lot worse before they get better.

    During my Baseline Study on Malaria, AIDS and TB (MAT) over the past couple of months, I have discovered something disturbing which can only add to Uganda’s malaria misery. You or your readers may be interested.
    Almost all ( over 90% in my study) malaria cases in the country are diagnosed symptomatically using a variant of Ockham’s Razor once described by my mentor as, “if you hear hooves behind you, look for horses, not zebras” ( in this case it’s the reverse)
    The majority of these diagnoses are made at Health Centre II level, that is a parish clinic. The most senior clinician at this level is an Enrolled Nurse, but more usually a Health Assistant, usually educated to Primary School level and trained for six weeks in the local hospital.
    S/he uses symptomatic diagnosis because at this level there are no alternatives, blood slide, rapid test etc. Treatment in all but the most ill, is the new WHO approved Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) known locally by its trade name Coartem. Adults get Coartem Blue, Kids get Coartem Yellow. The very sick still get quinine, usually IV, assuming they survive the journey to the next level of care
    In an attempt to mitigate the acute shortfall of healthcare staff in the country and to get healthcare down to the village level, the MOH is currently introducing Village Health Teams (VHTs) one of their tasks is to diagnose and treat malaria, they use the same method as the Level II healthcare workers.
    Given the vagaries ( euphemism for total ineptitude and stunning corruption) of the healthcare system, particularly the National Medical Stores which supplies medicines to the MOH and the system, Coartem is often in short supply. It is a major source of alternative income for many healthcare workers and is often transported to Sudan and DRC for sale.
    So here is the scenario: Citizen is sick, has temperature etc. He/she visits VHT who diagnoses malaria and provides Coartem. Patient takes two days worth ( half the dose) feeling a little better, he/she saves balance as insurance if there is none available for the next attack or for relatives or even for sale. The same is true of many who visit healthcare facilities.
    In summary we have an ongoing plague being managed by a healthcare workforce equipped with the minimum of resources and training. The current ‘silver bullet’ Coartem is being dished out like candy and used as a source of income. Anybody want to offer me odds on how long before ACT joins chloroquine/fansidar as useless medication for most malaria?

    Like

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