AFRO 2- Malaria project changes lives – African Business
The Mayana village is located about ten kilometers east of Rundu. This area is characterized by floodplains. Mayana, which means flood plains in the local dialect, is actually the name of the low-lying ground that is surrounded by water.
“We have a lot of water bodies down here and mosquitoes breed everywhere,” explains Johannes Lipayi, the AFRO 2 Malaria project coordinator for Mayana and Sikondo villages, situated in the Kavango East and West regions.
Because of the high number and death rate of malaria cases in these areas, the village is one of five districts that were selected to participate in the malaria cases reduction study. The other districts are Oshikoto Ohangwena and Kavango West. The study was part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) continuous efforts to support Namibia in its fight against malaria.
This pilot project of three years was started in 2018 and aims to reduce malaria transmission via larviciding. It also uses environmentally friendly chemicals.
“We were trying to see if the water bodies where mosquitoes are breeding if treated with a biological agent would contribute to reducing the mosquitoes transmitting malaria,” explains Dr Florence Soroses, the Malaria National Project Coordinator with the WHO.
“Before the implementation of the project in this village we had a lot of malaria cases and deaths. But as soon as the program started the cases started to decrease,” explained Lipayi.
The community has always been open-minded to the idea. The community gathered at the home of the headman to inquire about how they could get involved after word spread.
“When we compare this village to others where this project has not been implemented you can tell the difference,”said Lipayi.
In Namibia, 13,633 cases from malaria were recorded in 2020. 40 people died of malaria from this number. In 2021, there were 13,740 cases of malaria in the country. The number of deaths dropped to 15.
“Even when we were reporting the data, we could see a decrease in malaria cases compared to previous years before the project was implemented,” said Lipayi. Markus Kamburu, a father to five children, is 42 years old. Kamburu has been a Field Operator for the malaria project in Mayana village for the past three year. His work schedule was flexible. He could work nights, depending on the labour, and he started at 6 AM.
Kamburu’s duties included larval habitat mapping, larviciding as well as setting up the CDC light traps for adult mosquito collection. Kamburu, along with two of his teammates, was also responsible for conducting larval surveys. This involves monitoring the density and activity of mosquito larvae at breeding sites. They began by counting the number households in the village. The village had 3,365 houses. The study included 20 randomly selected houses. The team identified 65 breeding locations. These breeding sites have water in the rainy season, which can last anywhere from December to May. Some breeding areas have water all year.
“These are the breeding sites that we always monitor to see if there are some larvae. If there are larvae we larvicide. At the very beginning, however, we started with the mapping process and then we did the larviciding for the breeding site which we identified if there were some larvae there,” explained Kamburu.
Kamburu stated that he had no prior knowledge in identifying larvae, nor technical knowledge about malaria. The village headman appointed Kamburu in 2018, when the project began.
“The chemicals we use for larviciding were very impressive because when we use them, we expect to find larvae in two to three days when we get back. The larvae will already be floating. We also collected adult mosquitoes. We still collect mosquitoes even though they are adults. So, this process was really fighting the mosquitoes at all the stages of their lives and therefore reducing malaria,” explained Kamburu.
Kamburu claims that the team also uses prokopacks aspirators. These are vacuums that collect adult mosquitoes from the outdoors. This is usually done in the morning. They use the CDC light trap for indoor resting mosquitoes to capture the adult mosquitoes over night.
“These are the methods we use to collect the mosquitoes in the village,” he explained. After collecting data, the team records it and sends it to Dr Soroses in Windhoek for further analysis. “We have an organised system that we use to record and send the data to Dr Soroses,” explained Lipayi.
The WHO contributed N$1 million to the project. The project was officially funded in May. Both the WHO and the community hailed it as a success. The Country Representative, Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses said the difference the project has made in the community shows that “the biological agent used works in malaria control”.
Joseph Mbamba said that the knowledge and experience he gained through the project were invaluable. “I go out in the community to raise awareness on malaria. I also take the equipment to demonstrate how we do our work,” he added. The project also helped him financially because he was able to pay for his son’s higher education.
“The WHO invested a lot in these people. My hope is that the Ministry of Health and Social Services or the private sector will take over the project so that their knowledge will not be wasted,” said Lipayi. He also fears that the number of cases of malaria will rise again.
“These people know the methods that are used in malaria control, and they are very well informed about that. They attended annual workshops and training and now it’s up to the government to look at their plight and take over,” said Lipayi. Berthold Shinimbo, the headman at Mayana village, echoed similar sentiments and called for investments in malaria project. “This will enable the community to take over. As you can see, we have a high unemployment rate,” said Shinimbo. The AFRO2 project was launched with the goal of strengthening national capabilities for the implementation, scaling up, and diversification of effective, evidence-based and environmentally-friendly malaria vector control interventions. A particular focus was placed on winter larviciding to increase vector control to eliminate malaria by 2022. The project was also implemented by Eswatini and Botswana.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) – Namibia.
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