The Zimbabwean government with support from the World Health Organisation is moving towards implementing alternative non-chemical-based innovations for vector control such as house screening, to fight malaria.
Malaria remains a public health threat in Zimbabwe, with more than half the population at risk of contracting malaria annually. Despite the progress made, malaria still accounts for about 40% of outpatient attendances in the moderate to high transmission districts, especially during the peak transmission period.
Over the years, Zimbabwe has adopted several chemical-based vector control measures to reduce malaria.
Speaking on the sidelines of a project field visit in Chiredzi, Wilson Chauke, MoHCC, National Vector Control Officer noted how the AFRO II Project was not replacing existing control measures but adding to existing malaria prevention and control mechanisms.
“Zimbabwe is currently using chemical-based vector control interventions and the AFRO II project is going to assess the effectiveness of house screening, a non-chemical-based intervention. You know chemicals have an environmental impact which should be avoided at all costs,” Chauke said.
The AFRO II Project which is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through UNEP and WHO-AFRO. The project supports the implementation of the UNEP roadmap for the development of alternatives to DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) as endorsed by the seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) at the Stockholm Convention in May 2015.
The objective of the road map is to make locally safe, effective, affordable, and environmentally sound alternatives available for a sustainable transition away from DDT.
“Should this project succeed, we look forward to having an additional intervention which is environmentally friendly,” added Chauke.
Covering doors, windows, and any other openings with screens and closing off any remaining gaps with mortar is simple and effective. Keeping mosquitoes out of homes not only prevents the transmission of malaria, but also several other tropical diseases like dengue, filariasis, or Rift Valley Fever. Apart from protecting all members of the household while indoors, screening is also an environmentally friendly intervention as well as a lasting and more cost-effective option compared with the use of bed nets alone.
“House screening was successfully tried in the Gambia and Tanzania and found to significantly reduce malaria transmission. It is also beneficial in that it is environmentally friendly and not prone to the development of mosquito resistance. Again, it fosters community participation and ownership,” says Casper Tarumbwa, WHO Zimbabwe AFRO II Project Coordinator.
The Afro II project study in Zimbabwe covers wards 27 (Monyoroka Resettlement area) and 28 (Triangle) in Chiredzi District, Masvingo Province.