Scores of babies are expected to be born with deformed sex organs or being born with both male and female genitalia in the Chobe District following Botswana’s reintroduction of the pesticide DDT in the area.
Botswana earlier this year agreed to the reintroduction of DDT for malaria control in the Chobe District.
The first consignment from South Africa was sent to the Chobe District earlier this month, despite opposition from some officials in the Department of Public Health.
Expert opinion suggests that because of DDT, banned in most of the world, Botswana faced a “national propensity to androgyny for future generations”, particularly for babies conceived in high-risk areas like the Chobe.
DDT is banned worldwide as an agricultural pesticide under the Stockholm Convention. Limited use is allowed for the control of diseases like malaria.
Women who lived in villages sprayed with DDT to reduce malaria gave birth to 33 per cent more baby boys with urogenital birth defects (UGBD) between 2004 and 2006 than women in unsprayed villages, according to research published online by the UK-based urology journal BJUI.
And women who stayed at home in sprayed villages, rather than being a student or working, had 41 per cent more baby boys with UGBDs, such as missing testicles or problems with their urethra or penis.
The authors suggest that this is because they spent more time in homes where domestic DDT-based sprays are still commonly used to kill the mosquitoes that cause malaria, even in areas where organized mass spraying no longer takes place.
This view is also supported by former CSIR scientist, Anthony Turton, who delivered a lecture on the “Crisis in our Rivers” when he was awarded the Habitat Council’s Conservation Award in South Africa on Saturday.