Yesterday, drones started the long-awaited exercise of spraying mosquito larvae.
The exercise was meant to open in late January, but the ministry postponed its launch until yesterday.
The drone technology is one of the new measures the government is bringing onboard to push for the targets to achieve zero malaria in Rwanda by 2030.
The launch event that took place Gasabo District - City of Kigali featured minimal spraying in a marshland in the Rusoro sector, as technicians showcased to the officials how the drones are going to be working.
The program is piloted in six high-risk malaria zones across the country by Charis UAS- a local Drone Company.
Such aerial spraying methods use non-insecticide (non-chemical) interventions, for example, microbial larvicides (bacteria that are registered as pesticides for control of mosquito larvae in outdoor areas).
This method targets mosquito larvae, as opposed to the traditional spraying methods that mainly targeted mature mosquitoes. Due to this, spraying is mainly in marshlands among other places where mosquitoes breed from.
Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) said they will use Bacillus thuringiensis serotype israelensis (Bti) – a group of bacteria used as biological control agents for larval stages of certain insects.
Bti produces toxins which are effective in killing various species of mosquitoes, fungus gnats, and blackflies while having almost no effect on other organisms.
Dr. Daniel Ngamije the Minister of Health compared the new method to a military technique of fighting the enemy from “his own camp” instead of allowing him to attack you at home,
“We will be killing the mosquitoes when they are still at the larvae stage, before they become the fully grown up mosquitoes that find us in our houses,” he said.
The minister said that the measure is very effective in locating and spraying the areas where mosquitoes breed from, using less manpower and insecticides.
He gave an example that a marshland that would have been sprayed by hundreds of men can be sprayed by only one man using drone technology, and in a short time.
In an interview with media, Teddy Segore the Technical Director at Charis UAS said that the technology can map out the areas that have mosquito larvae, and spray up to 1 hectare in 30 minutes.
He said each drone can carry about 12 to 16 litres of the larvicides.
Charis officials declined from sharing some of details of the project, for example how many drones they have currently, saying that the deal is not yet finalised.
Dr. Ngamije said that malaria is still a problem in the country, and about 3 million people are falling sick from the disease every year, and some end up dying.
He said a number of measures are in place to fight the disease. Among these, he said more than 57% of malaria cases are treated by Community Health Workers.
In addition, the government has since last month began to give out insecticide-treated mosquito nets and it aims to give out about 7.5 million of these around the country.
Yesterday’s event also saw Rwanda the “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” movement, a drive to accelerate malaria elimination across the African continent.
The campaign was launched in 2018 President Paul Kagame in his role as Chair of the African Union. It seeks to build community ownership of malaria efforts and increase political commitment for malaria elimination.
As part of the campaign, all Rwandans will be urged to step up the fight against the disease, from political leaders to the private sector and local communities.