Hundreds of thousands of people are dying around the world each year from the effects of the use, or misuse, of pesticides. This paper reviews the different options to reduce availability of the most hazardous chemicals, focusing on issues in developing countries. Emphasis is placed on the fatal poisoning cases and hence the focus on self-harm cases. Overall, it is argued here that restricting access to the most hazardous pesticides would be of paramount importance to reduce the number of severe acute poisoning cases and case-fatalities and would provide greater opportunities for preventive programmes to act effectively. The aim should be to achieve an almost immediate phasing out of the WHO Classes I and II pesticides through national policies and enforcement. These short-term aims will have to be supported by medium- and long-term objectives focusing on the substitution of pesticides with safe and cost-effective alternatives, possibly guided by the establishment of a Minimum Pesticide List, and the development of future agricultural practices where pesticide usage is reduced to an absolute minimum. Underlying factors that make individuals at risk for self-harm include domestic problems, alcohol or drug addiction, emotional distress, depression, physical illness, social isolation or financial hardship. These should be addressed through preventive health programmes and community development efforts.