Environmentally friendly and sustainable malaria prevention in East Africa
The Biovision project uses a multifaceted, environmentally friendly approach to fight the tropical disease malaria. Known as "Integrated Vector Management" (IVM) and supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), the approach brings together community-level prevention and major aspects of healthcare policy.
An important element, therefore, is raising the awareness of local people to the causes of the disease, the risk of standing water and the effective use of mosquito nets. Wherever possible, standing water is drained or if this is not possible, specially trained "Mosquito Scouts" monitor the water regularly for the anopheles mosquitoes and if found, they are treated with a biological larvicide. Health professionals working in both local and national government are provided with information on IVM as well as appropriate training. In addition, the knowledge and experience gained from the three project locations provide policymakers with valuable data for an informed political dialogue and the development of an effective health policy.
These environmentally friendly and cost effective methods are constantly being refined and adapted to local needs. For example, the project is now encouraging fish farming. The fish feed off the mosquito larvae and so significantly reduce mosquito populations. They also provide local people with a valuable source of income or additional food for themselves.
Each year, almost 500,000 people still die of malaria (445,000 deaths in 2017), 92% of which are in Africa. The IVM approach will help to bring about sustained improvements in the health of the affected populations in Kenya and Ethiopia without causing damage to the environment whilst at the same time generating additional income opportunities.
Some 66,000 people are benefiting directly from the three project locations in Kenya and Ethiopia, primarily small-scale farmers and schoolchildren. In addition, policymakers and healthcare professionals working in government and non-governmental organisations benefit by attending workshops. The entire population of the project regions in Nyabondo and Malindi (Kenya) and Tolay (Ethiopia) - about 212,000 - benefits indirectly from integrated malaria prevention and control.
Objectives of current project phase
From 2016 to 2018 the focus is on the sustainability of the IVM-activities: The IVM activities, the structures and the people involved will be organised in a way that a long-term, effective and environmentally friendly malaria prevention becomes possible.
- A 50% reduction of the mosquito population transmitting malaria in our project areas.
- A 50% reduction on transmissions in the project areas.
- A 10% increase of income for the participating households.
The project teams in Nyabondo have a close, successful working relationship with local community organisations. This enables them to strengthen the structures of those organisations and provide members with the knowledge and skills required for the effective prevention of malaria.
The package of IVM measures used differs in the three locations. The most effective has been a combination of biological larvae control, awareness raising and the use of impregnated bed nets. The incidence of malaria is lowest (1.67%) in villages using all three measures to combat malaria. In Malindi, the average prevalence of malaria dropped to 3.7% in 2015 compared with 7.5% in 2014.
Work on the development of new bio-pesticides is also producing promising results. icipe is working on the registration of the bio-larvicide Uzimax and a second product now being trialled is also proving effective at controlling larvae and mosquitoes. Progress in this area is extremely important as these new products represent cost-effective, sustainable alternatives to Bti, the larvicide currently used. Bti is very expensive and is not available to the local population.
The combination of various information programmes and the targeted training for local people is showing those living in affected areas how they can protect themselves and their families on a sustainable basis. The project team is working closely with government and non-governmental bodies as well as the healthcare and related sectors. Such cooperation helps to strengthen existing structures at the local, regional and national level and will mean that in future they too will be able to play their part in the effective prevention and control of malaria.