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AFRO 2- The Malaria project changes livesAbout ten kilometers on the eastern outskirts of Rundu is the Mayana village, an area characterized by floodplains. In fact, Mayana means floodplains in the local dialect and takes its name from the low ground surrounded by water.

“We have a lot of water bodies here and mosquitoes breed everywhere,” says Johannes Lipayi, AFRO 2 Malaria project coordinator for Mayana and Sikondo villages, located in Kavango East and West regions.

The village is in one of five districts among the five regions selected to participate in the malaria case reduction study due to the high number of malaria cases and deaths in these areas. The other districts are in Omusati, Oshikoto, Ohangwena and Kavango West. The study was part of the ongoing efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO) to support Namibia in its fight against malaria.

This three-year pilot project was implemented in 2018 with the aim of reducing malaria transmission through larvicides while using environmentally friendly chemicals.

“We were trying to see if the water bodies where mosquitoes breed, if treated with a biological agent, would help reduce mosquitoes transmitting malaria,” says Dr Florence Soroses, coordinator of the national malaria project. at 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 drop,” Lipayi explained.

The community has always been open to initiative. When news of the project spread, the community gathered in large numbers at the chief’s to ask how they could be involved, Lipayi said.

“When we compare this village to others where this project has not been implemented, you can tell the difference,” Lipayi said.

In 2020, 13,633 cases of malaria were recorded in Namibia. Of this number, 40 people died of malaria. In 2021, 13,740 cases of malaria were recorded in the country. The death toll has fallen 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,” Lipayi said. Meanwhile, Markus Kamburu is a 42-year-old father of five. For the past three years, Kamburu has worked as a field worker on the malaria control project in Mayana village. His work schedule started as early as 6 a.m., and sometimes he had to work nights depending on the manpower.

Kamburu’s tasks included larval habitat mapping, larviciding as well as setting up CDC light traps for adult mosquito collection. In addition, Kamburu and two other teammates also had the responsibility of conducting larval surveys, a process that includes monitoring mosquito larval activity and density at breeding sites. They started by counting the number of households in the village and discovered that the village had 3,365 houses. Of these 20 homes were randomly selected to be part of the study. The team identified 65 breeding sites. These breeding sites retain water during the rainy season, which can be between December and May. Some breeding sites have water all year round.

“These are the breeding sites that we always monitor to see if there are any 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 any larvae there,” Kamburu explained.

Kamburu says he had no prior knowledge of larval identification, nor did he have any technical knowledge of malaria. He was appointed by the village chief in 2018 when the project started.

“The chemicals we use for the larvicides were very impressive because when we use them we expect to find larvae in two to three days when we return. We will already find the floating larvae. We also collect adult mosquitoes. Even though the mosquitoes are adults, we still collect them. So this process was really fighting mosquitoes at all life stages and therefore reducing malaria,” Kamburu explained.

In addition to larvicides, Kamburu says the team also uses prokopack vacuum cleaners, which work like a vacuum cleaner to collect resting adult mosquitoes outdoors. This process is usually done early in the morning. For indoor resting mosquitoes, they use the CDC light trap to catch adult mosquitoes at night.

“These are the methods we use to collect mosquitoes in the village,” he explained. After collecting the data, the team saves and sends samples for further analysis to their supervisor, Dr Soroses in Windhoek. “We have an organized system that we use to record and send the data to Dr Soroses,” Lipayi explained.

The WHO injected N$1 million into the project. In May, funding for the project officially ended, with the community and WHO hailing it as a success. The country’s representative, Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses, said the difference the project has made in the community shows that “the biological agent used is working in the fight against malaria”.

Joseph Mbamba says the knowledge and experience he has gained through the project is invaluable. “I go to the community to raise awareness about malaria. I also take the equipment to show how we do our job,” he added. The project also helped him financially as he was able to pay for his son’s higher education.

“WHO has invested heavily in these people. I hope the Ministry of Health and Human Services or the private sector will take ownership of the project so that their knowledge is not wasted,” Lipayi said. He also fears that malaria cases will increase again.

“These people know the methods used in the fight against malaria and are very knowledgeable about it. They participated in annual workshops and trainings and it is now up to the government to examine their fate and take over,” Lipayi said. Echoing similar sentiments, Mayana village chief Berthold Shinimbo called for investment in the malaria control project. “This will allow the community to take over. As you can see, we have high unemployment,” Shinimbo said. The AFRO 2 project was implemented with the aim of strengthening national capacities for the implementation and scale-up of evidence-based, innovative, diversified and environmentally friendly malaria vector control interventions. , with a particular focus on winter larvicides as an additional vector control tool for malaria control. elimination by 2022. The project has also been implemented in Botswana and Eswatini.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO) – Namibia.