Wed, May 16, 2018 - Page 6 News List

FEATURE: Ghana combats malaria with new chemical sprays


A worker extracts a sample from one of the mosquitoes bred at the Entomologist Research Center in Obuasi, Ghana, on May 1.

Photo: AFP

Bismark Owusu moves food and bowls from a bedroom and covers clothes and furniture with a large sheet before mixing a mosquito-killing chemical with water in his spray pack.

He then puts on head-to-toe safety gear, straps the pack to his back and methodically sprays the walls, windows and corners of the room.

Owusu’s visit to Domeabra, a small community in the Obuasi area of the Ashanti region in Ghana, is his latest stop in the nation’s fight against malaria.

The death of two of his friends from the disease spurs him on.

“Why wouldn’t I help if others are dying? I am here today helping to eradicate this deadly malaria,” he said.

Malaria, which is spread to people through the bites of infected female mosquitoes, is one of the world’s deadliest diseases.

According to the WHO, there were 216 million cases of malaria in 91 nations across the world in 2016 and 445,000 deaths.

Most of those cases and deaths — about 90 percent — were in sub-Saharan Africa.

In Ghana, which is home to about 28 million people, there were 4.8 million cases and 599 deaths last year, a marked drop from the 2,200 who died in 2011.

However, with global concern that the fight against malaria has reached a plateau, African governments and development agencies are looking at new ways to step up the fight.

That includes preventative measures, such as distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and developing a vaccine against the disease, but also indoor spraying.

Ghana is the first on the continent to introduce the large-scale use of a new “third generation insecticide” against mosquitoes, which have developed a resistance to other chemicals.

As Ghana’s rainy season approaches, when malaria cases increase, Owusu and his colleagues at the non-profit organization AGALMal are working flat out.

The organization grew out of a social initiative by global mining firm AngloGold Ashanti and has a laboratory in the grounds of an old mining site in Obuasi.

There, tiny mosquito pupae dart around in water in a white plastic container in a lab. Soon they will transform into mosquitoes and be studied by scientists.

Technologist Paul Osei-Bonsu said chemical resistance was a major issue for the spraying program.

If a population of mosquitoes is sprayed and just one survives and reproduces, the resistance will be passed on, he said.

“If you use the same spray over time you will have 90 percent of the population not dying,” he said.

Program director Samuel Asiedu said that mosquitoes are “intelligent insects,” so the new chemical — SumiShield 50WG — should be more effective when rotated with others.

In 2006, after the first two years of the indoor spraying, the hospital in Obuasi saw a 75 percent decrease in malaria cases. That led to the program being expanded with additional support from global health initiative Unitaid and the Global Fund partnership.

The indoor spraying program currently targets the homes of 1.2 million people.

“We are anticipating other chemicals to come on board by the end of the year so we can be rotating the use of chemicals to prevent resistance development,” Asiedu said.

Unitaid project director David McGuire said he hoped the scheme “will convince donors and national governments to increase their investment in this life-saving intervention.”

Keziah Malm, who manages the national malaria control program at the Ghana Health Service, said the new WHO-approved spray is considered safe and has been tested internationally and locally.

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