In Malindi, Kenya, malaria has been effectively reduced. "Mosquito Scouts" such as Riziki Ramadhan have played an important role in the control of this infectious desease.
Peter Lüthi, Biovision project reporter
Riziki Ramadhan from Malindi is an everyday heroine, like all her colleagues from the local NGO PUMMA. They are “Mosquito Scouts” who have made a significant contribution to ensuring that the people in the region have been largely freed from the scourge of malaria. Mosquito Scouts educate the population about the causes of and protection against malaria and ensure the implementation of environmentally-friendly measures to control the disease-transmitting mosquitoes. Each scout is responsible for an area of one square kilometre. There, they identify potential breeding grounds for malarial mosquitoes on weekly patrols. They take water samples to check for mosquito larvae. Breeding site locations and the number of larvae are recorded in detail and the information is passed on to the insect specialists at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI). By pooling these details with the data on disease cases provided by the health authorities, KEMRI researchers can monitor the occurrence of mosquitoes and the spread of the disease.
Riziki Ramadhani found mosquito larvae in a cistern in Malindi Town. Since then, the owner has consistently covered the well in her garden. The water is regularly treated by specialists with environmentally-friendly Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis) that is then consumed by the mosquito larvae. The bacilli destroy the insects’ intestinal tracts, causing them to die. Bti specifically targets malarial mosquitoes but is harmless to other organisms. The distribution and correct, consistent use of bed nets has also been crucial for the decline of malaria in the Malindi Subcounty. Resistance was initially high. “Many people refused to sleep under the white nets because they look very similar to the cloths used to cover the dead here,” explains Riziki. “It took a lot of patience and persuasion to overcome the resistance.”
The breakthrough finally came when the scouts received blue or green nets to hand out. Thanks to their extensive knowledge and the noticeable decrease in both mosquitoes and malaria, they were able to gain the respect and trust of the people. “Today they call me Mosquito Doctor,” smiles Riziki Ramadhan proudly. The scouts work on a voluntary basis in return for an expense allowance, even though they do not live in otherwise rosy conditions. Riziki Ramadhan, for example, kept her children and her unemployed husband afloat by making and selling baked goods on the streets. Today, her broad experience in dealing with the population also helps her get paid work. For example, she is temporarily employed by other NGOs and the authorities to work on campaigns to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis and for reducing domestic violence.