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Malaria elimination impossible to achieve without African entomologists

Major success in the fight against malaria has largely been due to efforts aimed at killing mosquitoes. The targetted attack has involved deployment of bed nets or indoor sprays that include insecticides. But mosquitoes are developing resistance to these chemicals while at the same time global funds for their deployment are shrinking. In the push towards global elimination of malaria, we need to get smarter in the way we wage war against our six-legged enemy.

Entomologists are those intimately associated with the whereabouts and happenings of mosquitoes. They spend hundreds – if not thousands – of hours trekking through muddy villages, inspecting watery holes for young mosquito larvae, and collecting mosquitoes resting on walls of huts. Basic tests for the killing power of insecticides are performed in make-shift field laboratories in hotel rooms or even converted shipping containers. Essential information on mosquito behavior guides which anti-mosquito tools to use where, and at what time. It can be the difference between choosing a tool that will have high impact or no impact, decision which can amount to millions of dollars and thousands of lives. The expertise of entomologists is critical in guiding anti-malaria efforts.

Yet there is a dire shortage of entomologists worldwide and across Africa. Some high-burden African countries have less than a handful of expert entomologists. Very few African countries have entomology programmes at undergraduate university level. Specializing at a higher level is impossible without guidance from an experienced mentor, of which there are precious few.

The new Pan-African Mosquito Control Association brings together members of this elite yet endangered group from across the continent. As a united group, they will provide leadership and training to the next generation of entomologists. Efforts also focus on providing critical technical support as countries refine their malaria elimination strategies. Together they issue a sustained call for increased investment in this critical area.

The successful launch of PAMCA will be celebrated at the 6th Pan-African Malaria Conference held in Durban this week. The celebration will be graced by the Goodwill Ambassador for the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, Ms Yvonne Chaka Chaka. Over 50 renowned entomologists from Africa and beyond are expected to attend.

“This initiative is thoroughly welcome. We cannot relent in the fight against malaria – and African entomologist are our best weapon“, said Ms Chaka Chaka. “It will be impossible to say goodbye to malaria for good without their expert help”.

Those equally engaged in the fight against mosquitoes but unable to attend the launch celebrations are urged to join the cause via www.pamca.org.

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