CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa's use of controversial pesticide DDT has helped it achieve a huge reduction in malaria cases over the past five years, the health minister said on Thursday.
DDT is effective in killing malaria-spreading mosquitoes but is blamed for deaths, cancer and birth defects and is outlawed by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, except when used for disease control.
South Africa stopped using the insecticide in 1996 due to international pressure but re-introduced it four years later after other insecticides were found to be less effective due to drug resistance.
"This change in insecticide was one of the main contributing factors to the decline in malaria cases in the past five years in South Africa," Health Minister Mantombazana Tshabalala-Msimang said in written reply to a parliamentary question.
"South Africa has reduced malaria morbidity and mortality by approximately 88 percent and 86 percent, respectively, compared to the year 2000," she said.
Official data shows the country had 7,754 reported cases of malaria and 64 deaths from the disease in 2005 compared to 64,622 cases and 438 deaths in 2000.