DDT versus malaria : a successful experiment in malaria control by the Kenya Medical Department.

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DDT versus malaria : a successful experiment in malaria control by the Kenya Medical Department. In copyright. Source: Wellcome Collection.

About this work


This film was created as a record of the 1946 campaign to check an epidemic of malaria in the Kipsigis tribal reserve in the Kisumu district of north-west Kenya by spraying village huts with DDT. During its inception, it was decided that the film could also be used for propaganda purposes and modern audiences will find its tone jarringly patronising in places. Also, there is evidence that certain narrative elements of this film are fictional (the sequence with the headman is re-enacted); please refer to chapter 7 'DDT versus malaria, Kenya-commentary on a film', Health in tropical Africa during the colonial period (Oxford: Clarendon Press,1980) available in the Wellcome Library. The film features the late Professor Cyril Garnham (1901-1994). 5 segments.


[Place of publication not identified] : [publisher not identified], 1946.

Physical description

1 encoded moving image (23.02 min.) : sound, black and white



Terms of use

In copyright.


Segment 1: The film opens with scenes of traditional life led by the Kipsigis tribe in Kenya. The narrator describes their lives as 'primitive' and their demeanour 'indolent', preferring a 'carefree' existence. Maps illustrating how widespread malaria is in the region are shown and how this area has been ravaged before the introduction of DDT spraying. A Kenyan family is seen in the grip of malaria; a mother tends to her sick child in the open air. At the time, sickness was so prevalent that agriculture was halted; a lone woman is shown hacking at the weeds which surround the corn crop - and she too has malaria. In a Western farm, all the local workforce has been stricken with malaria except for one milker. In the hospital, the (Western) medical officer surveys the patients with malaria; two patients are in each bed. A patient is shown recently deceased of malaria; his head is covered. Time start: 00:00:00:00 Time end: 00:04:23:16 Length: 00:04:23:16
Segment 2: The epidemic is investigated by a specially trained team of two local men who enter an infected hut and lay down sheets in order to collect malaria bearing mosquitoes. They are then placed in test tubes; there is a wide shot of a large group of local people gathering to watch the proceedings. A mobile laboratory is shown; a queue forms of villagers waiting to have their spleens examined and blood taken. An adolescent is shown in line wearing a right of adolesence costume in the form of a bird. Next, a Kenyan laboratory worker is seen examining blood slides. He dissects a mosquito to discover whether there are malarial parasites. In an office, three Western men, one including the director of Medical Services, sit and discuss what is to be done. Charts are shown with a large peak in the number of cases. There is some natural sound where the men are heard discussing (in unnaturally loud voices) the issues and recommend spraying DDT on huts in the affected area. It is noted that the local population are 'rather backward' and it will be necessary to hold some public meetings to win their confidence. Immediately, the scene switches to the meeting in question. The other Western participants in the meeting are the District Medical Officer, the District Entomologist and the District Commissioner. The narrator provides an explaination of the happenings at the meeting as the commissioner communicates to the gathered people that mosquitoes carry malaria. There are views across the silent and dubious villagers looking on. A portable spraying apparatus is demonstrated. It is noted that the villagers suspect witchcraft or that they will be poisoned. A bowl of porridge is sprayed with DDT and the entomologist eats a few spoonfuls to show that it is not contaminated. A chief, then a soldier are shown arguing the case against and then for spraying. Ultimately the people nod their assent. Time start: 00:04:23:16 Time end: 00:11:48:07 Length: 00:07:24:16
Segment 3: The hut spraying operation commences. The powder is weighed and then dissolved in kerosene. Drums of kerosene are heated before the powder is dissolved. Drums of the solution are loaded onto a lorry to be distributed to depots in the reserve. Sprayers are ready with their portable equipment which is checked. Donkeys are then loaded up with the drums and the team set off. The group briefly pause at a watering hole. Time start: 00:11:48:07 Time end: 00:15:41:15 Length: 00:03:53:08
Segment 4: They arrive with the apparatus. The spraying team is shown in action priming the equipment and getting the hut ready, removing all the items from the huts (apparently of an unusual construction with two storeys). The grain store is shown being protected by a tarpaulin. The rafters are then thoroughly sprayed; a minimum of 20 huts a day are sprayed. The team proceed through the forest; the chief glared at them as they pass. A villager welcomes them and beckons them towards his infected hut close-by. Time start: 00:15:41:15 Time end: 00:19:34:11 Length: 00:03:52:21
Segment 5: An unusual tribal rite is shown being interrupted; hooded villagers - one an unmarried girl are seen. Then, in the hospital, patients are shown rapidly convalescing as the malaria epidemic is soon over. The chief, previously unsupportive of the spraying operation, brings his wife who is holding a baby very sick with malaria. The chief sits morosely by the roadside as the spraying team pass and then goes to their aid as a donkey drops its load. It is noted that his assistance is evidence that he has had a change of heart and thereafter his influence on becoming a 'man of science' will assist in the fight against malaria. The End. Start time: 00:19:34:11 End time: 00:23:02:24 Run time: 00:03:28:13

Creator/production credits

Camera: David Carnegie, Recording: Eric Blanckart, Commentator: Dr R. Heisch, Supervising Director: Dr P.C.C. Garnham of the Kenyan Medical Research Laboratory. Produced by East African Sound Studios.

Language note

In English.



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