World, Africa, 74TH UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2019

Africa: People innovate locally to combat killer malaria

From using technology to extracting potions from locally grown plants, entrepreneurs innovate solutions to combat malaria

Aurore Bonny   | 25.04.2021
Africa: People innovate locally to combat killer malaria

LOME, Togo

From inventing a device to trace parasites without taking out blood samples to modifying drones to spray chemicals and making potions from locally grown plants, entrepreneurs in African countries are trying their best to keep the deadly malaria disease away.

Even as malaria continues to be a major killer in the African continent, in Togo and Senegal people have resorted to using Malagasy solution extracted from the artemisia plant to tackle malaria. The solution was also recently touted as treating COVID-19.

Brack Anayo, an agricultural entrepreneur, has set up an artemisia plantation in Tchekpo-Dedekpoe, a village in Togo's Maritime region, after noticing inequalities in the fight against malaria.

"Artemisia is very affordable that anyone can plant and use without worrying about dosages," he said.

He said while the world is currently focused on finding treatment for COVID-19, there has been hardly any such campaign to find an effective cure for malaria.

"The big pharmacists in our country are evasive when they are asked to support farmers to cultivate this plant," he claimed.

In Kpalime, a tourist town in southwest Togo, Adabra Kossi Mawulolo with his wife and a group of young people are training villagers to expand the plantation of artemisia.

Suffering from sickle cell anemia, Mawulolo was also suffering from malaria for over two years, untill a friend provided him seeds of the plant and through media, he learned about Malagasy solution.

"I feel healthy now after taking these local remedies," he said. Since then, he has made it a mission to encourage villagers to plant artemisia.

Cameroonian scientist Agnes Ntoumba said the presence of varied and diverse flora in Africa is its big advantage.

She uses ingredients from a plant to make a potion to kill malaria larva. Though she does not identify the plant and has kept its name secret, the discovery has earned her an international reputation.

Using skills to fight disease

Her solution is different from usual fly killers, which are harmful to the environment and human health.

"Many actors have an interest in keeping this disease [malaria] alive. It is not important for decision-makers to stop it because there is a lot of money to be made," she said.

In other countries like Senegal and Uganda, also the entrepreneurs are engaged in innovation to combat malaria.

"Technology is useless if it can't solve problems," said Senegalese engineer Mamadou Wade Diop. He is a technician and co-founder of drones which are used to spray chemicals in a large area to kill mosquitos.

"We have our skills and expertise to fight this disease that is taking a huge toll in our country," he said.

In Uganda, Brian Gitta and his team have launched a device that allows testing without taking blood.

"It offers an early, accurate, and rapid diagnosis of malaria, reducing the amount of medication, the length of treatment, and the number of people suffering from severe effects of the infection," said Gitta.

All of these entrepreneurs are looking for support from the government and world health organizations to work further on their solutions for the benefit of people in Africa.

Nearly half the world's population lives in areas at risk of malaria transmission in 87 countries and territories. In 2019, malaria caused an estimated 229 million clinical episodes and 409,000 deaths. An estimated 94% of deaths in 2019 were in Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

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