Highlight 2006: Stop Malaria

For decades, malaria was the most common cause of death in the coastal town of Malindi in Kenya. Suddenly, the town had far fewer mosquitoes and so fewer cases of the disease. For Dr Anisa Omar, the reason was clear: behind the success was a Biovision pilot project.

Death lurks in the puddles.

Malindi, on the Indian Ocean. Mrs. Salim sits in front of her small clay-brick house and looks relaxed into the camera: “I slept so well”, she says smiling. This is new. Until recently her sleep was often disturbed by dangerous mosquitoes, which spread malaria.

Every year around two million people world - wide die from the disease – 90% in Africa. The disease is fatal predominantly among small children and pregnant women. “There are suddenly much fewer mosquitoes than before”, reports Nuru Habim Salim. This observation is confirmed by Malindi hospital officer Dr. Anisa Omar from the Ministry of Health: “Malaria was the number one cause of death here for decades. Since 2005 it is the third, after HIV/Aids and tuberculosis.” The reason for this sudden decrease is obvious to the pediatrician: “For the last year there have been much fewer mosquitoes”.

The marked reduction in mosquito numbers is the result of, among other things, a pilot project of 2 African research institutes* which is supported by Biovision. The malaria problem is tackled with a series of specific, environmentally friendly measures: information and education of the population, control and elimination of breeding sites, organic combating of malaria mosquitoes and distribution of bed nets.

Environmentally friendly mosquito killer

“The mosquito larvae are made harmless before they develop into mosquitoes and are able to spread the disease”, explains Dr. Charles Mbogo, project leader and malaria specialist with the Kenyan Medical Research Institute (KEMRI). “In addition, the stagnant pools which constitute breeding sites are treated with the natural bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti). Bti produces a protein that destroys the bowel of the larva. Other organisms and the environment remain unharmed. Even drinking water can be treated with Bti.” Special mosquito traps are used for successful control. By means of the traps the development of the mosquito population can be monitored and further specific interventions carried out as needed.

Knowledge is the beginning

Close co-operation and active participation of the affected population are also of the highest priority for Dr. Charles Mbogo. “The people are informed on the causes of the disease, the role of mosquitoes and the danger which lurks in stagnant bodies of water. A disused tyre filled with rainwater or pool near the hut can serve as a breeding ground”, he emphasises. A particular coup was achieved with the training of local people to Mosquito Scouts, who act as agents between the population and the experts in the malaria project. Scouts are responsible for an area of around one square kilometre, where they search out the breeding sites of stagnant water and instruct the population in cleaning up the area, thereby reducing the risks. They also supervise the distribution of mosquito nets and collect data from the malaria traps.

A Biovision Programme Coordinator and Project Manager Dr. Charles Mbogo in Malindi: Mrs. Nuru Habim Salim was one of the 4.000 mothers with young children who were the first to receive the bed nets sponsored by Biovision’s partner FAWCO.

Mosquito Scouts: Key to Success

The mosquito scouts are recruited from various local organisations such as women’s or youth groups. A trained social worker organises the initial and further training and coordinates operations. For Hafswa Bokia (on photo), Mosquito Scout in the Malindi slums, hunting for mosquitoes is a job that secures her existence. From sun-up to sundown she organises waste disposal actions with the inhabitants of the area, gives instruction on clearing sewage canals and urges the pools to be drained and holes to be filled. “The people trust me because I am one of them. But it will take time for them to change their behaviour”, says Hafswa Bokia impatiently. There will be no lack of work for the Malindi Mosquito Scouts. But a good start has been made. In any case more and more people in Malindi can sleep untroubled at night.