HC Deb 01 December 1937 vol 329 cc2058-9
33. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any information respecting the incidence of sleeping sickness in Nigeria; whether the number of victims is increasing; and what steps are being taken to combat the disease, including the improvement of sanitation in the native settlements and towns?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

Figures for the last ten years show that there has been a considerable increase in the incidence of sleeping sickness in Nigeria. The Nigerian Government has been spending over £25,000 annually to combat the disease, and has recently decided to devote an extra £30,000 a year for five years towards the concentration of population in fly-free areas. As regards the last part of the question, I think that the hon. Member is under some misapprehension. Sleeping sickness is borne by the tsetse fly, which infests rural areas, and is consequently unaffected by urban sanitation.

Mr. Sorensen

While the right hon. Gentleman's statement may be perfectly correct, is it not a fact that nevertheless bad sanitation reduces the vitality of the population of this area; and is it not desirable, from that standpoint, that the sanitation should be improved?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

The improvement in sanitation during the last 40 years in West Africa has been very remarkable; great work has been done in that direction. But anybody, even the fittest white man, if he is bitten by an infected fly on a journey through bush, is just as liable to get sleeping sickness as an unfit man.

Mr. McEntee

Have any experiments been made in this area similar to those made, with some success, by the Russian Government, in the direction of spraying from aeroplanes?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

The breeding habits and the whole habitat of the tsetse fly are such that that would be quite futile. There have been various international conferences in the Congo and in French West Africa, which are also affected, on the scientific treatment of the problem of the tsetse fly, but so far no sovereign remedy has been discovered.