How malaria was successfully suppressed in Malindi

In East Africa, infections are a constant danger. In flood-prone Malindi, Kenya, the high incidence of malaria has been significantly reduced – a great relief, especially now in the time of corona.

 

Mosquito Scout Amos Wangi takes a sample from a waterhole near M'mangani Village and checks it for mosquito larvae. At the same time he educates the children about the transmission of malaria.

Peter Lüthi, Reporter

The floodwaters from the Sabaki River came without warning. “All we could do was grab our children and their grandmother and get ourselves to safety on Mbogolo Hill,” says Kazungu Masha Weni, a 53-year-old farmer and father from M’mangani Village. The flood took everything with it: houses, household goods, cattle and chickens. Another 400 families in the village faced the same fate. But it could have been much worse. In the past, many victims fell to malaria epidemics that followed the floods and rainy seasons. This time the people in in the Malindi Subcounty were spared that misfortune. This was partly thanks to the preventive measures implemented in recent years and supported by Biovision.

Malarial mosquitoes targeted

Malaria pathogens are transmitted by mosquitoes. The “Stop Malaria” project succeeded in significantly decimating the mosquitoes through a series of coordinated and environmentally-friendly measures. The fewer mosquitoes carrying the disease, the lower the risk of infection for people. One of the keys to the success of the project was the collaboration of scientists from the state-run Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) based in Nairobi, Kenya, the regional health and environmental authorities, and the workers referred to as “Mosquito Scouts” from the local NGO PUMMA. Together, they succeeded in significantly reducing disease transmission.

Danger averted

“We’ve been living here in M’mangani for more than thirty years,” says Janet Weni, Kazungu’s wife. “There used to be so many mosquitoes that we could never eat outside in the evening without being eaten up ourselves.” At that time, there were about 200 cases of malaria in her village alone from March to June every year. She, her husband and several of their children were also seriously ill several times. “Today I only get bitten once or twice a night,” she says, “There are now only a few cases of malaria in M’mangani.”

  • View of Mbogolo Hill, where Janet and Kazungu Masha Weni and their family fled the floodwaters.
  • Malarial mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water. Puddles, tree hollows, worn-out car tyres and even pieces of plastic trash are ideal breeding grounds.
  • Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis) is used to control mosquito larvae in larger bodies of water. Mosquito larvae eat kernels that contain the bacteria. The bacilli release toxins into the insects' intestinal tract, killing the larvae.

The person responsible for the small clinic in the village confirms her statement. “Malaria is not a big problem here anymore,” says Catherine Kachibi Kaingu as she opens her report book and calculates: “In the last malaria season we did not have a single case in March, only one in April, three in May, nine in June and three in July.”

Viral diseases also decreasing

Dr. Lydiah Kibe, the long-time project manager in Malindi, is very proud of the success of “Stop Malaria”. She stresses that environmentally-friendly mosquito control is not a short-term issue. “Our project was a long journey.” And she points out a very welcome additional effect: “The measures are also effective against viral diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. In the project area, the cases of yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya and elephantiasis have declined noticeably.”

Now the people in Malindi are also facing the Covid-19 pandemic. At least they are largely spared from malaria.