I wish I had a shilling for every time someone told me spraying homes with
DDT to prevent malaria is like using Africans in evil experiments. I would
be a rich woman.
That claim is a blatant falsehood. Even worse, it hides the many ways poor
Africans really are being used in environmental experiments that cause
increased poverty, disease and death.
If any people were ever used in DDT experiments, it was Americans and
Europeans. During World War II, this insecticide and mosquito repellant was
sprayed on tents and around camps to keep American and British soldiers from
getting malaria. After the war, millions of concentration camp survivors,
and millions of German and Italian citizens were sprayed with DDT (right on
their bodies) to prevent typhus.
Then in the 1950s and 1960s, America and Europe sprayed huge amounts of DDT
all over, as a critical part of their campaign to eradicate malaria. Yes,
they still had malaria in those countries! But not anymore.
Numerous scientific and medical studies found that DDT was safe, and that it
did not cause cancer or other health problems worse that skin rashes, even
with high levels of exposure. Anti-insecticide activists still say "some
experts think" DDT "may be linked" to things such as low birth weights in
newborn babies, lactation failure in nursing mothers or slight reductions in
mental power. However, they have never been able to prove any of this - and
we know malaria clearly does cause these problems.
America and Europe banned DDT anyway, but only after they had used it to
eliminate malaria. And in Africa we only want to spray a little on the walls
of houses, to keep mosquitoes out, keep them from biting if they do come in
the house, and save millions of lives! Nothing else works as well, at any
America and Europe used a chemical (DDT) that environmentalists now claim is
dangerous. But the chemical got rid of malaria. Nobody got cancer or other
health problems from DDT.
Just as important, around the same time, thousands of brave American and
Canadian parents let their children be used in another health experiment:
they had them inoculated with the Salk vaccine, to see if it would prevent
polio. It worked! And it started a worldwide program that has almost
eliminated that terrible disease.
If Africans used DDT for indoor residual spraying, they will be using a
chemical that America, Europe, India, South Africa, Ethiopia, Mozambique,
Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe have all shown is effective in
fighting malaria, and safe for people and the environment.
But environmentalists still say, don't do it in Uganda, Rwanda and other
countries where malaria is still killing our parents and babies. They say we
should just use bed nets, ACT drugs and maybe some Icon. These things
certainly help. But they only reduce malaria by 30% or so - whereas we could
prevent and almost eradicate this disease, if we would also use DDT.
Bluntly put, environmentalists are using African parents and children in
anti-DDT experiments. Against all the evidence from decades of using only
nets and drugs and maybe other insecticides, they want to keep ignoring DDT
as a long-lasting spatial insect repellant. They want to keep us doing what
has at best worked only partially, on the assumption that maybe it will work
better next year - or that a 30% malaria reduction is good enough.
They are playing with our lives. So are the government agencies, health NGOs
and others who support their policies. This is wrong and immoral. And it is
only one of the ways they use Africans as experimental laboratory animals.
They are also denying us access to other modern technologies that can
improve and save lives.
600 million people in sub-Sahara Africa live on two million shillings ($900
USD) or less per year. Nearly 700 million never have electric power for
lights, refrigeration, schools, shops and clinics - or have it only a few
hours per week. Millions die from diseases that would be prevented, if they
did not have to burn wood and dung, and had safe water, better healthcare
and higher living standards that reliable, affordable electrical power would
But environmentalists constantly block coal, gas and hydro-electric power
plants. They want us to live in experimental societies where people get
whatever limited electrical power can be generated day to day with wind
turbines or solar panels. They pressured the World Bank to reject loan
applications for power plants in Ghana and South Africa, and support
President Obama when he says Africans should focus on wind, solar and
bio-fuel power, instead of fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, they live in wealthy countries, with all the electrical power
they need. With the health, opportunity and prosperity electrical power
brings. With freedom and mobility that cars and fossil fuels bring. With
blessings most Africans can only dream of.
Radical greenies also oppose agricultural technologies that would bring a
green revolution to Africa. They denounce seeds that have been "touched by
corporations" - even hybrid, but especially biotech seeds - that produce
bigger, more nutritious crops, resist plant diseases like banana wilt and
cassava brown streak, survive droughts, thrive in nutrient-poor or saline
soils, and require fewer pesticide applications.
They want us to rely on traditional "open-pollinated" seeds that have lower
germination rates and crop yields - seeds that require more land and more
backbreaking labor, but generate so little income that farmers stay
impoverished for life, and people continue to starve.
China and India put up with this immoral eco-colonialism for decades.
Finally, they had enough. They refused to be the environmentalists'
experimental pawns any longer. They took charge of their own destinies,
charted their own future, financed their own projects, and refused to be
stopped again by anti-development green policies, politicians and pressure
Uganda, the Great Lakes Region and all of Africa need to do the same thing.
We have the land and natural resources, the bright and hard working people.
Let us be brave and bold! Let us become prosperous and healthy together.
Fiona Kobusingye is co-chair of the Congress of Racial Equality Uganda and
Kill Malarial Mosquitoes Now coalition.