Africa and Malaria

06/05/2005 06:23 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I join with Chris Meserole in saluting Jay Winsten for his proposal to fight malaria in Africa by raising money for insecticide-treated bed nets. Malaria was endemic in Europe and North America until we eliminated it using bed nets.

Oh, wait. We used DDT.

And that’s the real problem for Africa: environmental concerns stemming from DDT overuse in the US – mainly by cotton growers and the government – led to its ban here and stigmatization throughout the world. Today, because western agencies won’t pay for programs that use DDT, a lot of African countries don’t - even though the quantities employed to fight malaria by spraying inside huts are miniscule.

So 2 to 3 million die annually from malaria.

Read Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed in the New York Times. He's been criticized for his position and the EU opposes DDT, but Ralph Nader agrees that it's necessary. The bottom line is that while studies suggest that bed nets can help, Africa needs DDT.