Today is World Mosquito Day

Post date: Aug 20, 2009 1:21:7 AM

Today is World Mosquito Day: Raising Global Awareness of the Importance of Mosquito Elimination Program

Accra-Ghana, - In honor of World Mosquito Day, observed annually on August 20, but ignored in most African countries including Ghana, Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa (VPWA) and its partners in Sub Saharan Africa are working to increase awareness of the importance of efficient technology to kill mosquitoes and therefore eliminate mosquito borne diseases including Malaria.

World Mosquito Day originated in 1897 by Dr. Ronald Ross of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. After dissecting mosquitoes known to have fed on a patient with malaria, Ross discovered the malaria parasite in the stomach wall of the mosquito. Through further research using malarious birds, Ross was able to ascertain the entire life cycle of the malarial parasite, including its presence in the mosquito's salivary glands. Ross confirmed that malaria is transmitted from infected birds to healthy ones by the bite of a mosquito, a finding that suggested the disease's mode of transmission to humans. For his findings, Ross is credited with the discovery of the transmission of malaria by the mosquito, and was honored with a Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1902.

Presently, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 350-500 million cases of malaria occur worldwide each year, and more than one million people die, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa. Mosquitoes cause more human suffering than any other organism, and afflict not only humans, but animals as well.

VPWA is using this year’s Mosquito Day to point out the flaws in current African policies and recommending to committed leaders on the continent to rethink Malaria strategies. Leaders should take the bold initiative of implementing a result oriented initiative that could eradicate Malaria in 3 years, probably within first term of some African leaders.

First, the bed net:  Research finds that bed nets are only 25% effective in preventing Malaria. This means that, in the unlikely event of every person within a given geographical area (for example: Ghana) sleeping under bed nets from 5pm-7am, Malaria cases are likely to be drop by 25%. Despite these research findings, we still we have NGOs raising money all around the globe in pursuit of ‘blanketing’ Africa with nets. It should be noted that, mosquitoes do not bite only when you are in bed.

Second, Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS):  Indoor Residual Spraying is the dispensing of insecticides on walls made from porous materials such as mud or wood. The idea is that, after the mosquito has taken the blood meal, it will land on the wall and die. In some African countries where DDT is used, this repels the mosquito from even entering the house.  Less effective insecticides like permethrin are also used for this purpose. This method has proven to be about as effective as bed nets achieving only around a 25% reduction in transmission rates and is not designed for plaster city dwellings. Studies on biting rates done in Mali, indicate that about 38% of all biting occurs outdoors.  As a consequence this is why bed nets, and Indoor Residual Spraying, will never break the malaria transmission cycle. 


Third, truck mounted "fogger" units: These units are only capable of reducing mosquito populations by about 30% in the US, where they are in common use.  However this is under better circumstances than are available in Sub-Saharan Africa, where there is a general lack of a good road grid pattern, typical of American Suburbs. 

It must be understood that a 30% reduction in mosquito population does not translate into a 30% reduction in malaria transmission.  The Centre for Disease Control did a study some time ago in Sub-Saharan Africa and managed to get a 90% reduction in mosquito populations, however only a 25% decrease in transmission rates was achieved.

This having been said, one must realize the reduction levels achieved with these experiments were given on the basis of a controlled research protocol.  A real world situation would not be controlled.  Not everyone would sleep under a bed net, not every house would be treated with Indoor Residual Spraying, and the truck mounted fogger units are a bigger joke than either bed nets or IRS treatment, when it comes to reducing the transmission of the malaria parasite. These considerations are however not applicable in a program involving the treatment of an entire region with an aircraft equipped with insecticide aerosol generators.

In the unlikely circumstance the whole of Ghana is blanketed with nets, meaning, all inhabitants of homes, hotels etc. sleeps under nets, and IRS enabled in every home, and truck mounted fogger units dispensing insecticides in our neighborhoods, Ghana will see a reduction of only 50% in Malaria transmission. However for Ghana to even implement this multi faceted approach and be successful, the nation will spend a huge chunk of its GDP annually to maintain it. Failure to maintain the exercise will also lead to a catastrophic rise in human death due to Malaria.

What are we proposing?

VPWA is proposing Aerial Spraying or what the Americans call “space spraying.” This technology consists of an aircraft equipped with a high pressure aerosol generator, treating the entire environment the mosquito lives in, effectively eliminating the mosquito. 

We are proposing this project be funded by the grant money currently being wasted on marginally effective interventions and wish to introduce this method to Ghana as a model for the elimination of malaria in Africa.  We estimate that for only about 2% of the total direct and indirect costs presently associated with Malaria in Ghana, the disease could be eradicated within 3 years.  Within 30 days the transmission cycle could be broken within a given treatment area. 

That having been said, defeating malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa is the challenge of all challenges, and certainly not a task for amateurs.  Sadly however in this case, amateurs are in charge of this effort.  The irony is it would cost much less to succeed, in this endeavor, than pursue the present failed strategy.

Hayford Siaw

Executive Director

Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa

+233 21 928245, +233 24 3340112