I feel compelled to respond to Lillian Lindaâ€™s opinion letter that appeared in The New Vision of April 23. Linda says that DDT causes symptoms like headache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea when taken in large quantities, hence should not be used.
Firstly, Linda, what would you rather suffer from; headache and nausea, or malaria. Whereas Linda fears these mild symptoms, she forgets that malaria, whose incidents DDT spraying is meant to reduce, kills one in every four children in Uganda, maims hundreds more per year, causes miscarriages and maternal deaths, and squanders family incomes. How does this compare with her fear for â€œheadache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.â€
Secondly, Linda clearly states that these â€œside-effectsâ€ occur with â€œhighâ€ concentrations of DDT in the body. Sheâ€™s right. Why would there be high concentrations of DDT in the body? There are clear World Health Organisation guidelines as to how much DDT can be sprayed per unit area, hence over-concentration does not arise.
Paracetamol (panadol) and asprin cause hepatitis (liver inflammation) and bleeding peptic ulcers when in high concentrations in the body, but clear dosages have been identified where the benefits of these drugs out-weigh their side-effects. That is why we can safely use them. All pharmaceutical products, including DDT, have similar safe dosages, but are potentially harmful if used wrongly.
It is for these precautions that DDT is meant for in-door spraying only.
In Zanzibar, which has achieved zero incidence of malaria in just three years of DDT spraying, no one has died from headache or diarrhoea.
DDT was sprayed out-door in farmlands in Uganda for decades up to the recent past and there was no epidemic of â€œheadache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoeaâ€ that resulted and claimed lives.
DDT is the best option against malaria, and until an equally effective alternative is found, we should use it.
The dismissal of the court case against DDT use is the best thing that has happened, and the Government should quickly re-start the process, so as to stop the ongoing deaths due to malaria.
The writer is a medical doctor at Kisoro Hospital
The good of DDT outweighs the bad