By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK While some people argue that the use of treated mosquito bed nets prevents the spread of malaria, the Minister of Health and Social Services , Dr Richard Kamwi, says this exercise has proved to be self-deceiving if not futile. The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes that insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) are a highly effective way for individuals, families and communities to protect themselves from malaria. Consistently sleeping under an ITN can decrease severe malaria by 45%. However, according to Kamwi, promoting the indoor spraying of houses using dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) is the only solution to fighting malaria in Namibia and southern Africa at large. “Although I support the use of bed nets, the reality is that most people, before they go to sleep under the bed net, have already picked up the malaria parasites. The bed net in this case would be a futile, self-deceiving and potentially dangerous exercise,” he said. The use of DDT, which today is the main cause of declining malaria rates in several countries and which has contributed to the eradication of the disease in the United States of America, was discouraged in many African countries in the 1970s. This was due to pressure from Europe and the USA. Because WHO puts more emphasis on bed nets at the expense of indoor spraying with DDT, last year delegates at the 55th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa held in Mozambique requested the WHO to pronounce itself on the use of DDT and malaria control. Followed by a consultative meeting in June this year, it was recommended that member states strengthen relevant capacities to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate appropriate malaria vector control interventions including IRS with DDT. Dissemination of experiences in the use of DDT among member states was also encouraged. Namibia had been persistent in the use of 75% DDT powder. According to a Ministry of Health and Social Services report, the research on local malaria vectors suggests that Anopheles funestus is almost eradicated in the northern malarious regions of the country. Kamwi said: “Experience has shown that spraying of houses can be effective at reducing the burden of malaria, but there are massive organizational challenges, especially in respect of commitment to sustained and consistent allocation of resources.” Resources, just like in any effort to fight a disease outbreak remain crucial in this area as vector control requires extensive training of personnel, education of and cooperation by the public and good logistic arrangements. In Namibia, malaria continues contributing to economic losses. The disease is the fifth leading cause of death in the country. The leading causes of death in Namibia are HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, pneumonia, gastro-enteritis, malaria and cancers. Last year, 369 077 cases of malaria were recorded. A total of 1 325 known deaths resulted from the disease. Kamwi was addressing ministers of health in the SADC region at a three-day meeting held under the theme “SADC Scaling Up Indoor Residual Spraying with DDT.” The meeting that ends today with the commemoration of the 2006 SADC Malaria Day, in Ondangwa, discussed matters pertaining to the establishment of a ‘Committee on Epidemic Preparedness, Standardization of Data and Surveillance’, a ‘Committee on Human Cloning’ and also a ‘Committee on Traditional Medicine’.
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