Kakaire's blog - It all started with a severe headache – got me thinking about malaria, about DDT, and about the potential for conflict between environmental concerns and health.
Uganda is rightly worried about the tens of thousands of its citizens thought to die of malaria each year. So is the World Health Organisation (WHO). Perhaps that’s why after years of banning the anti-malarial DDT, the WHO now says it’s safe.
In February I attended a summit of health ministers from the East African community. One of the issues discussed was the residual spraying of DDT in homes to do away with malaria-spreading mosquitoes.
Tanzania's health minister said his country would embark on a nationwide programme of spraying after successfully ridding the island of Zanzibar of malaria. Other countries are following suit, with Uganda planning to start in the next couple of months.
Despite this, the controversy surrounding this chemical isn’t over yet. Several Ugandan environmental activists have detailed its dangers. And reports on the internet are mixed.
But there are other concerns too…
Before I travelled to Tanzania I happened to talk to some farmers in the western Ugandan district of Mbarara, who grow bananas for a German company. One of them, 65-year-old Samson Byangire, is worried that once DDT spraying begins his bananas will be rejected. Yet he relies on the income from these bananas for his family’s survival.
The government insists the chemical will only be used inside houses and will not get into the plantations. But people are asking: what if a housewife mops inside her home and pours the dirty water into a nearby irrigation channel?
I'd like to know whether these debates have made it outside Uganda. Will European buyers continue to support their growers in developing countries once the spraying starts? Or will the livelihoods of Ugandan farmers be under threat as a byproduct of the Ugandan government trying to save lives?