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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Paul Driessen
Bio: Paul Driessen
Date:  September 24, 2006
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CORE and AFM condemn tobacco company for actions that imperil Ugandans

One week ago, the World Health Organization joined the U.S. Agency for International Development, President’s Malaria Initiative and Global Fund for the Prevention of Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS in endorsing indoor spraying with DDT, which is a good insecticide but most importantly the most powerful and long-lasting mosquito repellant in existence.

One week ago, the World Health Organization joined the U.S. Agency for International Development, President’s Malaria Initiative and Global Fund for the Prevention of Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS in endorsing indoor spraying with DDT, which is a good insecticide but most importantly the most powerful and long-lasting mosquito repellant in existence.

Uganda is now poised to begin controlling malaria and saving countless lives. But opposition has arisen from an unexpected quarter: British American Tobacco company and a business alliance under its direction. These DDT critics are completely off-base in everything they say about DDT’s supposed risks to people, trade or the environment, but their money and PR prowess are delaying progress and costing lives.

I am not alone in finding their stance hypocritical, unethical and contrary to basic principles of corporate social responsibility. BAT has seen the recent letter from EU President Barroso and knows there will not be trade sanctions over the use of DDT. Because it has offices in Kampala, Uganda, it also knows DDT has been used successfully in other African countries, to slash malaria rates by 75% in less than two years, mostly by keeping mosquitoes out of people’s homes at night. And BAT knows the chemical will be used only for indoor spraying, to save countless lives. But it insists on putting its ideology and misguided corporate interests ahead of the health and lives of Ugandan parents and children. This is simply unconscionable.

It is really a shame that a major multinational company could sink so low, and choose to be on the wrong side of ethics, history, sound science and life-saving medical practices.  

    I hope you will read the following news release and the second one I have attached – and consider posting these as stories, writing an article or commentary about this outrageous situation – or at least helping to spread this information far and wide.

Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)
817 Broadway, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10003

  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

British American Tobacco perpetuates disease in Africa
Company leads efforts to undermine new WHO malaria control policies.
CORE official calls BAT actions hypocritical and inhuman.
 

NEW YORK – Just days after the World Health Organization announced new policies to control the spread of malaria, British American Tobacco (BAT) has emerged as the leader and financier of efforts to undermine those policies, the Congress of Racial Equality charged today.

“BAT’s actions are unconscionable,” said CORE international director Cyril Boynes, Jr. “They will prolong a vicious disease that infects 12 million Ugandans every year and kills them at the rate of nearly 300 a day.” Worldwide, malaria infects 500 million people and kills up to 2 million every year, the vast majority in Africa and most of them children.

On September 15, WHO malaria director Dr. Arata Kochi asked people to “help save African babies,” by supporting the global health agency’s decision to re-emphasize DDT in combating malaria. Along with the USAID and health ministers in many countries, WHO intends to use small amounts of the chemical to keep disease-carrying mosquitoes out of homes.

Uganda wants to follow the example of South Africa, which slashed its malaria rates by 75% in just 18 months, by spraying tiny amounts of DDT on the inside walls of houses. This method is entirely safe for people and the environment, Dr. Kochi emphasized.

But the Uganda Health Ministry’s plans have run into opposition from business interests, who claim traces of DDT on their products could adversely affect their trade with Europe. Those interests are lead and financed by BAT.

This concern has no basis in fact, Boynes stated. “European Commission President Barroso has clearly said no food or other exports would be affected, unless they have DDT residues above prescribed limits. That is extremely unlikely under the WHO programs and, if it ever does happen, only that specific shipment would be affected.”

“BAT’s actions pit its narrow business interests against people’s lives,” said Niger Innis, national spokesman for CORE. “They are the ultimate in hypocrisy and inhumanity.”

BAT makes billions of dollars annually, Innis noted. “selling carcinogenic tobacco products to Africans, Europeans and Americans. Then it claims a life-saving chemical might cause low birth weights in babies or harm its bottom line. It won’t. But not using it will kill African mothers and children.”

British American Tobacco earned $4.7 billion in profits last year, on sales of $18 billion. Over 16% of those profits came from tobacco sales in Africa. The company insists that it supports the United Nations’ human rights principles.

“There is nothing more basic than the right to health and life,” said Boynes. “The company needs to take a refresher course in ethics, human rights and social responsibility.” 

Anti-malaria activists in Uganda have asked the company to support the Ugandan Health Ministry’s decision to use DDT for malaria control – and help ensure that the chemical is used properly and not diverted for agricultural use. They point out that Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, and hundreds of physicians, disease experts, religious leaders and human rights advocates fully support indoor spraying with DDT to prevent malaria. Even organizations like Environmental Defense and Sierra Club have belatedly agreed to support DDT use to save lives.

But BAT continues to resist, as the disease and death tolls mount.  

“This is shameful and callous,” Innis said. “BAT has blood on its hands.” The Stockholm Convention, World Health Organization, U.S. Agency for International Development, President’s Malaria Initiative and many others support DDT for malaria control, because it could literally save millions of lives. British American Tobacco needs to do likewise, he added.

“It’s time for the company to repudiate its legacy, which dates back to the days when British colonialists forced Ugandans to grow tobacco,” said Boynes, “and help end this healthcare disaster.”

Paul Driessen
Eco-Imperialism

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Biography - Paul Driessen

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org), and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death and other books on the environment.


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Copyright © 2006 by Paul Driessen
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