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New solar-powered mosquito trap lowers risk of malaria in Kenya

In Kenya, 3% of under-five deaths are due to malaria
In Kenya, 3% of under-five deaths are due to malaria

A new solar-powered trap for mosquitoes is being trialled in western Kenya as a way to reduce cases of malaria in families.

Residents of Rusinga Island in Western Kenya are at particular risk of contracting malaria with the region’s year-round heat. Malaria kills more than 35,000 people in Kenya each year and young children are particularly vulnerable; 3% of under-five deaths are due to malaria (according to data from the World Health Organisation).

Now a team of Kenyan and Dutch researchers have come up with an invention which reduces the numbers of the mosquitoes which spread malaria. The conical device lures mosquitoes using nylon strips impregnated with an artificial human scent and a fan then sucks them into a trap. The device is powered by a solar panel which can be installed on the roofs of traditional homes. With the country’s regular supply of sunshine, the panel can provide enough extra electricity to power two light bulbs and a mobile phone charging point.

One of the families testing the mosquito trap outside their home spoke to Reuters. Mother-of-two, Phylis Oduol, explained that she and her children now suffer from fewer mosquito bites, giving them a greater level of protection against malaria. This comes as a great relief to Mrs Oduol, who is pregnant with her third child. “Malaria kills pregnant women,” she says simply.

Saving health expenditure

The trial of the mosquito trap is ongoing, with 470 households equipped with the new device. However, Kenya’s director of public health confirmed that hospital records for the region already showed a reduction in the number of reported cases of malaria over the last year. Kenya spends around 100 million dollars each year treating the illness, so any new method which can reduce cases will be most welcome.

The trap also adds to the tools available for controlling malaria, which is particularly important given the growing resistance of mosquitoes to insecticides and pesticides Strains of malaria are also becoming more resistant to treatment drugs.

The use of solar products is growing in Kenya and if results from the trial prove successful, backers of the SolarMal device hope they will be able to begin selling the solar-powered trap commercially next year as another way families can protect themselves against this killer disease.