Mosquito doctors in Malindi

Using simple but sustainable methods, people in the Kenyan coastal city of Malindi have reduced the number of malaria cases by 60%. Biovision is supporting sustainable and ecological methods to fight the disease e.g. with mosquito scouts.

Simon Gottwalt, Programme Officer

Aziz Halfani is visibly proud. Members of his local community call him “Daktari wa mbu” - Swahili for mosquito doctor. This social recognition is an important motivator for him and other members of PUMMA, a not-for-profit association fighting the Anopheles malaria mosquito in the Kenyan coastal city of Malindi.

Knowledge is key

Members of the association act as mosquito scouts and also head the neighbourhood associations providing information on malaria to residents. “In many places, we first have to explain that malaria is transmitted by mosquitos and not by eating the mangoes that are mainly available during the rainy season when the mosquito population is at its height,” explains Lydia Kibe, a social scientist at KEMRI, the Kenya Medical Research Institute.

  • A group in front of a house
    Aziz Halfani (4th from right and the mosquito scouts together with the Biovision programme officer Simon Gottwalt (right) in front of the main PUMMA office in Malindi

  • A ladle with water
    The mosquito scouts regularly check wells, ponds and drainage channels for mosquito larvae and inform local people about malaria and its transmission.
  • A pool with water
    Fish added to neglected swimming pools eat the mosquito larvae
  • Little fish in the water
    Fish added to the water clean up the mosquito breeding grounds naturally – they eat the mosquito larvae
  • People at a covered fountain
    Smaller sources and surfaces such as wells and cesspools are covered to keep out the mosquito larvae.
  • A hut with people in front of it
    In villages that have adopted the measures, the incidence of malaria has dropped significantly.
  • People in a meeting room
    Biovision also trains local authority staff in integrated mosquito control – here at a workshop in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia

Fight against the mosquito larvae

To spread the required knowledge, Aziz and his colleagues knock on the doors of their neighbours and organise events in schools. However, the mosquito scouts are also proactive and seek to eliminate the mosquito breeding grounds, such as puddles, wells, cesspools and blocked drainage channels. They cover smaller expanses of water so that the mosquitoes are unable to breed. They also clear drainage channels to make the water flow and add small fish to larger expanses of water, which then eat the mosquito larvae. In total, they have eliminated more than 200 separate breeding sites in a single year.

Ecological mosquito control using local plants

Admittedly, these activities cannot cope adequately with larger stretches of water and so the mosquito doctors spray a biological insecticide to kill the larvae. icipe, the international research institute in Nairobi is currently working on further development of the product - made from the Neem tree that grows profusely along the Kenyan coast – with a view to obtaining market approval. This will allow the PUMMA members to produce their own bio-pesticides and also earn extra money by selling other Neem products.

As with all Biovision projects, sustainability and income generation are central elements of the malaria programme.

Significant reduction in malaria

The progress made using these measures is remarkable: The incidence of malaria in Malindi fell by 60% between 2006 and 2017 and in the villages where the methods have been adopted the drop in the number of malaria cases was double that in neighbouring locations. This means that Aziz Halfani is one step closer to his goal: a Malindi free from malaria. He plans to continue his work in order to achieve that goal.

Biovision is supporting the research institutes of KEMRI and icipe as well as the PUMMA association. It is also working with local health authorities so that they can take on the work currently done by Biovision and run the project independently. The prospects are good: Biovision has worked closely with the authorities in Malindi for many years and they are an integral part of the project.