Rwanda will by the end of this month start using drones in spraying mosquito prone areas as it steps up efforts to eliminate malaria.
According to Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), the pilot phase will begin in Gasabo District before being rolled out to other parts of the country by the end this year.
“It is (spraying mosquitos using drones) planned to start by end 2019. The drones are already available through Charis UAS and the Bti product is being procured,” Nsanzimana disclosed.
Charis Unmanned Aerial Solutions is a local drone technology company while Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis (Bti) is a bacteria found in soil and used as an insecticide that kills premature mosquitoes known as larvae.
“The pilot or feasibility phase is planned in Gasabo District. Thereafter, other districts will be covered targeting marshlands.”
Officials earlier said that the drones can fly for about 15 minutes on a single battery and spray an area of 40 hectares in a single day.
A few African countries, including Malawi have successfully deployed the drones in mapping and spraying mosquito breeding areas.
A mosquito-borne disease, malaria is a life-threatening illness.
Last year, Rwanda accelerated efforts to eliminate malaria launching larviciding and spatial manual spraying to control mosquitoes from breeding.
Launched in Kamonyi District, the initiative targeted mosquitoes breeding habitats.
The drones and manual spraying initiatives come to supplement the already existent measures against malaria, among them, ass distribution of bed nets, malaria case management in communities where community health workers are equipped to screen and treat malaria, free malaria treatment for Rwandans in Ubudehe 1 and 2 social clusters, and indoor residual spraying in malaria prone districts.
After recording 436, 000 fewer malaria cases in 2017 compared to 2016, Rwanda is now considered to be under the category of progress by the World Health Organisation.
The country reduced malaria cases thanks to different strategies that are being implemented under its malaria contingency plan.
In response to a resurgence of malaria in Rwanda, in the recent past, home-based management (HBM) was expanded to enable community-health workers to provide malaria treatment to patients of all ages.
The latest official statistics on malaria in Rwanda point to increased home-based management rate managed by community health workers from 50 per cent in 2018 to 57.1 per cent in 2019.
“There was a decrease of more than 50 per cent in severe malaria cases and malaria related mortality from 2016 to June 2019 following the roll out of Home-Based Management of malaria (HBM) in both children and adults,” Nsanzimana said.
In addition, he said, annual malaria cases decreased from 4.6 million in 2018 to 3.9 million in 2019.
Malaria incidence also decreased from 394 per 1,000 people in 2018 to 328 per 1,000 in 2019.
Globally, according to the WHO, in 2017 there were an estimated 219 million cases of malaria in 87 countries.
As of December 2017, there were 219 million cases of malaria up from 217 million cases in the previous year, the WHO says.
Africa carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2017, the region was home to 92 per cent of malaria cases and 93 per cent of malaria deaths.
Koketso Ramorei is a journalist and news editor of SADC News with years of experience in a number of genres including sports, politics and community reporting. He has worked for a numerous publications including The Citizen Newspaper and is a former editor of a Johannesburg-based off-campus publication called The Waldorfian Times.