400 Ugandans die daily from malaria

Henry Neondo, Kampala

A report on the use of dichloro diphenyl trichloroethane (DDT) to control malaria has shown grim picture of the burden of malaria in Uganda.

The report indicates that 400 Ugandans die of malaria daily and are mostly children and pregnant women.

According to the Ministry of Health, malaria remains the number one killer disease in the country and consumes 10 percent or US$34 million of the ministry's annual budget for the drugs and services.

The research was carried out between May and August 2005 in areas which were spread with DDT. It examined the effects of DDT on humans and the environment and also recommended the control use in fighting malaria.

Gabriel Bimenya, the chief researcher and lecturer at Makerere University said that whereas allegations have come up against the use of DDT, results have shown no direct association between DDT and human defects like impotence, infertility, neurological deficits, congenial abnormalities or cancer.

He said that the contrary, the results showed a very fecund society in areas where the chemical was applied in the country about 45 years ago.

In 1959/60, a World Health Organization malaria control team sprayed parts Kisoro and Kanungu districts in southern Uganda with 2g DDT per square meter in dwelling houses and kraals.

Bimenya said that though DDT may persists in man and in the environment, it is harmless at low levels.

"Low levels of DDT were found in plasma and urine from the people in Kihihi as expected from the 1959/60 spray project. This is in line with the established persistence and slow degradation of DDT in the environment and fatty issues," said Bimenya who confessed his urine had traces of DDT.

He urged the government to sensitize Ugandans on the use and benefits of DDT and to facilitate more research into the issue. In the recent past, the government had vowed to use DDT to control malaria despite spirited protests from environmentalists who argued that the chemical is dangerous to humans and the environment.

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