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RBM, South African Health Department Release Report On Reduced Malaria Mortality In South Africa

“South Africa has turned the tide on malaria, cutting mortality rates by 85 percent over the last 12 years, and hopes to soon eliminate the disease, a report [(.pdf) released by the Roll Back Malaria partnership (RBM) and the South African Department of Health] stated Wednesday amid controversy over the use of highly controversial DDT,” Agence France-Presse reports. “‘South Africa is well on its way to being a malaria-free country,’ Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said,” the news agency notes (10/9). “Nationwide, malaria morbidity and mortality decreased 89 percent and 85 percent respectively between 2000 and 2012, from 64,500 to 6,847 malaria cases, and from 460 to 70 deaths,” according to an RBM statement (10/9). “Malaria, which was once common in urban centers such as Durban, has now been pushed back to the border regions with Mozambique and Zimbabwe thanks to sustained investment in the program,” a South African Department of Health media advisory states (10/9).

“At the [center] of the fight to eliminate infections is the use of the highly contentious insecticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, better known by its acronym DDT,” which was reintroduced in South Africa in 2000, AFP writes, noting DDT “is linked to genital birth defects, infertility and cancer and is banned in many parts of the world.” According to the news agency, Tiaan de Jager, professor and head of environmental and occupational health at the University of Pretoria, said, “We are not saying that people should rather die than using DDT,” but “we should also look at safer methods that can lead to elimination,” including improved housing and sanitation (10/9).