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African farmers use drones to fight deadly malaria-carrying mosquitoes
TORONTO -- A new weapon in the war against malaria has taken flight in Africa.
In Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region in Tanzania, farmers are being trained to use drones to spray crops with pesticides to prevent the spread of the deadly disease, which is carried by mosquitoes.
A bite from the tiny insect kills one child every two minutes. While malaria rates are going down, it’s still the leading cause of death in the country.
Globally, the disease killed 435,000 people in 2017 from an estimated 219 million cases in 87 countries, according to the World Health Organization.
The new anti-malarial measure sees drones release a silicone-based liquid which forms a thin film on water to wipe out mosquito eggs before they hatch.
Treatments last around three to four weeks according to Dr. Bart Knols from the Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Programme.
“We calculated that within one hour we can spray eight hectares,” Guido Welter from the Drone for Malaria Project added.
This new method is much faster and safer than the alternative, which sees farmers strapping on pesticide tanks and spraying areas without much protective clothing.
The new method is almost like playing a video game.
“Literally press two buttons, invoke task, drone will automatically operate and spray and land back in the home point,” according to Eduardo Rodriguez from DJI Agras Drones.
Tanzania has the third largest population at risk of malaria in all of Africa.
The global effort to eliminate malaria is ongoing, with Malawi becoming the first nation to pilot a vaccine for children.
The WHO said its African region 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.
In the past decade, Zanzibar, with a population of 1.2 million people, has used a range of methods in its fight against malaria, including distributing thousands of mosquito nets for beds and supplying insecticide spray to homes.
Some parts of Zanzibar have seen the prevalence of malaria drop from 40 per cent of the population to less than 10 per cent, according to the malaria elimination program.
With files from The Associated Press