The World Health Organisation (WHO) has unveiled a new initiative to stop the spread of an invasive mosquito species, anopheles stephensi, in Africa.
This was contained in a statement released on Thursday.
In a 2019 vector alert, the WHO identified the spread of anopheles stephensi as a significant threat to malaria control and elimination, particularly in Africa.
“Originally native to parts of South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula, anopheles stephensi has been expanding its range over the last decade, with detections reported in Djibouti in 2012. Ethiopia and Sudan in 2016, Somalia in 2019 and Nigeria in 2020. Unlike the other main mosquito vectors of malaria in Africa, it thrives in urban settings,” the UN health agency explained.
With more than 40 percent of the population in Africa living in the urban environment, the WHO said the invasion and spread of the mosquito could pose a significant threat to the control and elimination of malaria in the region.
Jan Kolaczinski, the head of the Vector Control and Insecticide Resistance Unit with the WHO Global Malaria Programme, said the organisation was still learning about the presence of the anopheles and its role in malaria transmission in Africa.
“Increasing collaboration across sectors and borders and strengthening surveillance to determine the extent of the spread of Anopheles Stephensi and its role in transmission,” stated Mr Kolaczinski. “Others are improving information exchange on the presence of Anopheles Stephensi and on efforts to control it. Also, developing guidance for national malaria control programmes on appropriate ways to respond to anopheles stephensi.”
According to Mr Kolazincki, where feasible, national responses to Anopheles Stephensi shall be integrated with efforts to control malaria and other vector-borne diseases.