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Tanzania using Drones to fight Mosquito carrying Malaria

by Milicent Atieno
drone malaria tanzania

Malaria is one of those old diseases that still claims massive lives in the 21st century. The term ‘old disease’ is appropriate in the sense that it has been around for a while now. While others like measles, chicken pox, and polio can be described as ‘old diseases’ but unlike malaria they do respond effectively to medical solutions invented to combat them.

Malaria seems to be stubborn, and claims a significant number of lives especially in developing nations. The problem with malaria is the fact that the parasite keeps mutating, especially when the human host infected does not follow through with their dosage as required among other reasons.

The parasite also travels from humans blood systems to the intestines of the Anopheles mosquitoes. As you know, mosquitoes are tiny insects that fly, and they like areas with stagnant water, where they lay their eggs and at night time come to human residence to such blood when people are sleeping. Yes, they are quite the little vampires, these insects!

One can argue, the best defense against malaria is to exterminate their host (the Anopheles mosquitoes), but these little creatures’ habitat is wide and extended. Not to mention the chemicals that would effectively kill them is very toxic to the ecosystem. For humans, it would be like pouring poison upstream then running downstream to drink water from the same river.

Well, the Aberystwyth University from Wales has partnered with the Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Program in Tanzania to launch a new attack on the Anopheles mosquitoes using drones. The team uses an off-the-shelf drone, that is then flown over stagnant water (rice fields, swamps, lakes, rivers with slow moving waters) to identify the malaria breeding grounds.

The advantage of using a drone, is that the machine can fly in and out of the water-laden areas freely and fast. Thus enabling researchers to get accurate data on the position of mosquitos’ breeding grounds cheaply and with minimum disturbance of the area. Armed with the data from the drones, the researchers could then come up with a beeline on the map of areas that needs to be sprayed with an eco-friendly pesticide that kill the mosquitoes (hosts of the malaria parasite).

That means, efforts to eradicate the host by spraying will be effective and efficient as there will be minimal wastes of the pesticide being sprayed off target and into other habitats where it causes more harm than good. Though there are regulatory and security concerns before drones become mainstream, the technology does promise valuable application in combating malaria outbreak.

As for concern on use of drones, some of the highlighted issues include respect to people privacy in their property. As the flying gadget could be abused by being flown into private residences without permission by the owners. There is also the fact that it makes a lot of noise that could cause disturbance to wild animals in some of these habitats where it will be flown over as it scouts for possible mosquitoes breeding grounds.

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