By Amanda McConnell | Executive Director, Ouelessebougou Alliance
In 2023, the Alliance embarked on a crucial endeavor known as the Malaria Project, targeting eight villages within the Ouélessébougou region. The decision stemmed from a distressing reality: the prevalence of malaria had reached alarming levels, particularly afflicting children and expectant mothers throughout the year. Various factors contributed to this dire situation, including the presence of stagnant water and poor sanitation practices, resulting in the rampant proliferation of mosquitoes across all villages, with females posing the greatest threat due to their ability to transmit the disease.
The primary objective of the Alliance's Malaria Project is twofold: to shield local populations from mosquito-borne diseases and to effectively control mosquito populations. Spearheading this mission is a dedicated team comprising one project manager and two technicians, tirelessly striving to achieve our overarching goal of combatting malaria within the eight villages.
Last year, our commitment translated into a substantial investment of approximately 21 million CFA francs, covering essential expenses such as salaries, fuel, insecticides, vehicle maintenance, insurance, and registration. Building upon this foundation, the Alliance is poised to expand its reach and efficacy by augmenting this year's budget from 21 million to 23 million CFA francs.
A pivotal development in 2023 was the generous donation of a significant quantity of insecticides from the SLC Mosquito Control District in Salt Lake City. This fortuitous contribution was complemented by comprehensive training sessions, with the Project Manager undertaking a six-week program split between Utah and Florida's Mosquito Control Districts. Subsequently, a joint team from the SLC and Florida Control Districts journeyed to Ouéléssebougou to impart invaluable knowledge and skills to the Alliance's Mosquito Control team.
Looking ahead, the Alliance is committed to enhancing its operational capacity by further increasing the budget to approximately 24 million CFA francs. Central to this strategy is the recruitment of eight individuals from the beneficiary villages to augment the existing team, empowering them to oversee trap setting and maintenance while also facilitating community engagement initiatives aimed at promoting environmental cleanliness.
Moreover, fostering collaborative partnerships remains a cornerstone of our approach, as we endeavor to strengthen ties with the University of Bamako, the Alliance Mosquito Control District, the Ministry of Health of Mali, local health centers, and municipal authorities. By nurturing these relationships, we aim to cultivate a synergistic ecosystem conducive to sustained progress in malaria prevention and control efforts.
The impact of the Alliance Malaria Project in the initial eight villages has been profound, positively affecting the lives of over 2000 individuals. Notably, the incidence of malaria cases has seen a significant decline, underscoring the efficacy of our interventions. As we reflect on our achievements and lessons learned, we remain optimistic about the prospect of further improvements in the coming year.
In closing, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to all those who have supported the Alliance in its mission to safeguard lives within our beneficiary communities. Together, we stand poised to confront the challenges posed by malaria, forging a brighter, healthier future for all.
The mosquito abatement pilot program is beginning to wind down as we end the near of the rainy season in Mali. The rainy season is when mosquitoes are at their height. Our field workers Issa and Nfaly are spraying and treating water as well as setting and collecting the traps weekly in the villages. Suriname, our graduate student associate from the University of Bamako, is picking up the traps and taking specimens to the University for examination.
Our team has been visiting with the villagers regularly to determine their feelings on the project and collect qualitative data. Here are some thoughts and feelings from one of our test villages. The midwife of Simidji feels that there are less cases of malaria this year compared to last year and there have been no infant or child deaths due to malaria in the village this year.
One man living in Simidji shared, “last year at this time I couldn’t sleep in my room because of all the mosquitoes, but this year, we don’t see any mosquitoes so I am able to sleep and get some rest.”
During this project’s first year we realized we need to use different trap systems in the future as we are not collecting as many mosquitos as our team of researchers would like. We are working on finding better traps to use for next year. There are currently no definitive results thus far from the University on their analysis of the trapped mosquitos, but we should have them by the time of our next report.
In August, Anounou, Malaria Control Project Field Manager, visited the Mali Minister of Health to report on the progress of our project. The meeting was positive and she appreciated the update and asked that he keep her informed. Anounou was also able to visit with the Health Committee of the Parliament and they want to visit Utah and Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District in the future to learn more about the abatement processes. This increase in interest is a great sign and moves the project toward the level of sustainability we are looking for in the long-term.
In September, Anounou attended the Pan African Mosquito Association Meeting in Ethiopia along with Ary Faraji and Mohamed Traore. Anounou reported he learned a great deal and made some important contacts with other African countries who are working on creating their own mosquito abatement programs.
Earlier this month, the village chief of Simidji said, “Please don’t stop the project now. We can see there are less mosquitos. We are grateful.”
We look forward to having the data to support these accounts by our next report. Thank you for supporting this life-changing work!
The culmination of years of preparation came to fruition in June 2023 when the scientists and mosquito experts hit the ground in Mali and set up the first-ever mosquito control project in Mali. The team from the US included Dr. Greg White and Jason Hardman from the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District in Utah and Dr. Muhammad Farooq from the Anastasia Mosquito Control District in Florida. The US team was joined by University of Bamako collaborators and the in-field staff provided by Ouelessebougou Alliance.
The team arrived at the perfect time–at the very start of the rainy season in Mali–which is also the start of mosquito season. Setting up the program before mosquitos proliferate allows the team to eliminate the mosquitos in their larval phase and hopefully prevent a large adult mosquito population from growing.
The team began by visiting a number of villages in the Ouelessebougou area to determine which to choose for this year’s project. The villagers were extremely receptive and supportive of this ground-breaking effort to eliminate malaria, especially among their children. In one of the first villages we visited, we learned that a child had died from malaria just a few days before. It was a tragic reality that motivated the team to ensure project success. Eight villages were finally selected for the project. Mosquito traps will be set in each of the villages in search of malaria-carrying mosquitos. It’s truly a matter of life or death.
Once the villages were selected, the team set up and tested all the equipment that was shipped to Mali last year. The majority of the remaining time was spent training our two Malian mosquito control field technicians, Nfaly and Issa. They learned how to operate the equipment, where and how to set traps, how to identify malaria-carrying mosquito larvae in water sources with the naked eye, and how to apply the appropriate insecticides to targeted mosquito populations.
University of Bamako personnel will collaborate by receiving the collected mosquito samples from our team to identify and track the malaria-carrying mosquitos in the community. They will also provide direction and support to the field technicians as they embark on this remarkable endeavor.
The goal and the hope is that by quelling the malaria-carrying mosquito populations in the test villages, we will be able to quell the cases of malaria and ultimately the incidence of malaria-induced death among the vulnerable populations. The US team has returned home, but team members in Mali will continue their efforts in the villages through October 2023, the end of the rainy season. By that time, we should be able to document a meaningful set of findings. We are very optimistic about this life-saving project and express gratitude to the expedition team and project donors who have made it possible.
Thank you for continuing to be a part of supporting this incredible project!
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