Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Cigarettes And Mosquitos

17 Sept. 2006

Uganda, Tobacco, Cigarettes and Mosquitos The British American co (BAT) company is opposing an anti-Malaria programme in Africa. After a wait of decades, Uganda could have found a way to defeat the plague of Malaria. But fifty-two companies, lead by BAT oppose the adoption of a programme that drastically reduces this contagion. The motive? It could damage the cultivation of tobacco, putting at risk a business that in Africa amounts to 750 million dollars a year.

The IRS: The question that is dividing even the scientific world, is based on the adoption of ‘Indoor Residual Spraying’, a method that consists of annually spraying inside habitations, a solution which includes a small dose of Ddt – and which frees the inhabitants of the plague of mosquitos. The results of the initiative in the fight against Malaria are impressive: in just one year, in the South African region of Kwazulu-Natal, the programme has reduced the number of cases of Malaria by 80%.

“If it is used in the correct dose, the ‘Indoor Residual Spraying’ programme has demonstrated itself to be tremendously effective in all countries (14 in Africa, editor’s note) where it has been adopted,” confirmed Richard Tren of the Non-governmental organisation ‘Africa Fighting Malaria’ to PeaceReporter. “Its results have been noted since 1944 when it was used for the first time in Naples to defeat an epidemic of Typhoid and so, from this year the World Health Organisation (WHO) is officially recommending its use.”

If the ‘IRS’ should repeat its usual performance also in Uganda, it would resolve the health problems of a country in which the cases of Malaria, according to WHO figures, amount to 12 million a year.


But part of the scientific world is sceptical about the use of Ddt, advised against by the WHO since 1990 until just a few months ago (and by western countries since the ‘70s) because of its possible long-term effects on the health of humans and animals. A scepticism to which BAT has associated itself, joining a cartel of 52 agricultural companies asking for more research and information on the consequences of the spraying programme for agricultural workers.

“We recognise the results obtained by ‘IRS’ all over the world ,” a BAT spokesperson told PeaceReporter, “but we wouldn’t want Ddt to become the panacea for all ills. In particular, it could contaminate the agricultural products that most African families store in their own homes. If these products were to be rejected by the markets ( The USA, European Union and Australia have very strict norms relating to public health – editor’s note) the impact on the Ugandan economy would be devastating.” An impact that would have repercussions on the work force as well, given that BAT employs some 600 thousand people in the country.


Until now the government has not come out either in favour or against the programme, but it looks like the IRS programme will be carried forward (to the satisfaction of those, like Tren, who for years have fought against one of the most lethal diseases in the world, which kills more than one million people a year (among whom, one child every 30 seconds), if for no other reason than that there is no alternative. The results achieved from other programmes are not even remotely comparable to those obtained thanks to Ddt. BAT has resigned itself to this adoption and its policy, according to a non-governmental organisation operating in the sector, aims at slowing down as much as possible the adoption of the programme. “Since when have tobacco companies which sell products avowedly carcinogenic, worried about people’s health?”

Matteo Fagotto

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