|Note for the Press No 20
10 September 1999
WHO ARGUES BALANCED POSITION ON DDT
The World Health Organization has presented an "Action Plan for the Reduction of Reliance on DDT for Public Health Purposes" to the third meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for an International, Legally Binding Instrument for Implementing International Action on Certain Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
"Its main goal is to enable our member States to arrive at a balanced and informed position, with the participation of all stakeholders, in on-going intergovernmental negotiations on Persistent Organic Pollutants. A balanced position would reflect concern over the often insidious health impacts of DDT's ecotoxicity and the important, sometimes vital, role DDT continues to play in malaria control in a number of countries," said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the World Health Organization, as the meeting in Geneva, Switzerland progressed. This session is due to finish on Saturday, 11 September.
The Action Plan's main goals and objectives cover five areas:
At this meeting, WHO presented an update on its efforts towards the formulation of an Action Plan for the Reduction of Reliance on DDT for Public Health Purposes. It was mandated to do so by the World Health Assembly, when it adopted WHA Resolution 50.13 in 1997.
"Securing the promotion and protection of human health will be a the heart of WHO's Action Plan for the Reduction of Reliance on DDT Use for Public Health Purposes," added Dr Brundtland.
WHO is currently translating the objectives in the Action Plan into detailed work plans which still become available in October 1999. It has also started the mobilization of support for immediate action needed: the organization of regional consultations for Member States that continue to rely on DDT for malaria vector control. Such consultations will aim at awareness raising, advocacy, needs assessment for an eventual transition to alternatives to DDT and strengthening the dialogue between health and environment sectors at the national level. Country needs assessments are expected to feed into national action plans concerning the Implementation of a future POPs Convention.
"This is a unique opportunity, a win-win situation; which may allow us to mobilize the technical and financial support needed for an accelerated improvements of national malaria vector control programmes," says David Nabarro, Manager of the Roll Back Malaria in the WHO. "We see many countries moving towards the distribution of insecticide treated mosquito nets as their main strategy to Rolling Back Malaria. Combined with the proper use of safe insecticides to limit mosquito breeding and rapid treatment for people with malaria, and supported by environmental management for vector control, this represents the way forward in reducing malaria death rates throughout the world."
"To succeed in this effort, we will need close collaboration between UN agencies and other stakeholders," Dr Brundtland said.
The WHO position mirrors that of UNEP, which was stated earlier this week by Dr Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of UNEP. The implementation of the WHO Action Plan will therefore be a close collaborative effort between WHO and UNEP, involving FAO as well on specific issues such as stockpile inventories, safe disposal of stockpiles and the overlaps between Integrated Pest Management in agriculture and Integrated Vector Management in public health.
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