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February 20, 2019

New kit lights up Rusinga homes and kills mosquitoes

78 year old Julius Obara in his house which is eqiped with a solar powered source of light.Pix Habil Onyango
78 year old Julius Obara in his house which is eqiped with a solar powered source of light.Pix Habil Onyango

It has now become easier to get rid of mosquitoes. Researchers have invented a solar kit that not only lights up houses at night, but also pulls mosquitoes to their death.

Tests conducted at Rusinga Island in Lake Victoria, which has one of Kenya’s highest malaria prevalence rates, have been successful.

The anti-mosquito set, known as SolarMal, was developed by the Nairobi-based International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe) and the Wageningen University and Research Centre in Netherlands.

“For the two years that we have been carrying out the research, we have discovered that a number of malaria cases in households equipped with the traps have reduced,” says Arthur Willem Tekken, a researcher from Wageningen University.

The project involves laying solar powered mosquito traps outside a house and a bait sprayed with a mixture of chemicals that lure mosquitoes. The solar panel charges the battery and when dusk falls, the stored power lights up the house, and also rotates a fan that kills the lured mosquitoes.

“Over the past decade scientists have identified chemicals which attract mosquitoes. These are the chemicals we are using to lure mosquitoes to the traps,” Tekken says.

The project research began in 2003 and over the years, the researchers have monitored malaria infections in people living on the island.

“We have discovered that the number of malaria-causing mosquitoes in houses with solar powered trapping system is lower than in houses without traps. We have also tested people for malaria and found out that people living in households with the solar powered traps had less malaria compared to those living in households without the traps,” he says.

More than 4,000 houses, nearly the entire Rusinga Island, have had the kit installed for free.

It comprises a solar panel and mobile charging system, which is part of the trapping system. The pilot phase ends next month, but the developers have not announced how much new clients around Nyanza and other malaria endemic areas will spend to buy and instal the kit.

Dr Daniel Masiga of Icipe extols the long-term rewards. He says the kit provides both health and economic benefits and can be applied in many other malaria prone areas.

“People from this area no longer breathe in Kerosene fumes since they use green energy. Furthermore, they can now save the little money they used to spend on kerosene,” he says. Seventy eight-year-old Julius Obara says his family members are hardly contracting malaria and his spending on kerosene has gone down.

The father of six, who currently lives with his four grandsons and daughters, said the study time for his grand children has been prolonged.

“Before, sometimes we could not afford to buy even kerosene, and my grandchildren could not have any source of light to do their homework,” says Obara.

Gladys Okeyo, from Kakrigu Village, says her savings have improved because she no longer buys kerosene or pays for her mobile phone charging.

“Before we could even spend more than Sh100 per day on kerosene and another Sh20 on phone charging. The amount I save has now made it easier to pay school fees for my three children, who are in secondary school,” she said.

The kit was officially launched last week at Sam Wakiaga Playground in Rusinga.

Homa Bay County health executive Lawrence Oteng said malaria is still the number one killer in the county.

Oteng says all residents must continue to use treated nets and even spraying their houses since the kit does not destroy all mosquitoes.

Oteng said they must also clear bushes around houses and disinfect stagnant waters.

He asked researchers to furnish his office with the full cost of the kit, to gauge if it is sustainable.

Energy and Natural Resources executive Phares Ratego urged locals to embrace the kit. “The programme is like killing two birds with one stone. It touches on the health and the energy sector at the same time,” he said.

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