Anti Malaria Month (June): The Importance of Source Reduction



Malaria is a seasonal disease and the season for malaria is here. Mosquitoes do not breed out of nowhere. There are conditions which favour their breeding which when controlled will reduce the burden of malaria. Malaria is a disease; a medical condition. But seen from a different light, we can also say that malaria is primarily not a medical problem; it is an environmental problem with health consequences. Source Reduction, which is the reducing of breeding habitats for mosquitoes, is the most effective, and eco-friendly way of controlling malaria. Control of mosquito breeding is also an exercise to improve overall sanitation, and therefore it has extra benefits. It not only controls malaria, but also reduces the incidence of Japanese Encephalitis, Dengue, and other water borne diseases like Acute Diarrheal Disease, Typhoid, Cholera, Food Poisoning, etc. 
 
What are the ways in which we can reduce the breeding places of mosquitoes? Some of the ways are listed below:

1.      Draining of stagnant water bodies

Any collections of water around the houses are potential sites for mosquito breeding. It may be your discarded utensils, vehicle tyres, flower pots, clogged drain, or simply any depression in the ground where water had collected. A simple act of turning such utensils upside down will do the job. Making passage for water to flow, or minor engineering works may be required. If it is inevitable that some water bodies are formed due to rain, drying up such water bodies once a week will work. It requires a week for the mosquito eggs to hatch out. Drying the water bodies within a week will therefore prevent them from maturing into adult mosquitoes. That is why, it is advised that coolers commonly used in hot climates be dried and water changed once a week. Social works may be organized during the season to fill up the depressions, ditches and clearing of clogged drains.

2.      Covering of water storage tanks

Rain water harvesting is practised by most of the households in Nagaland. Therefore even in a relatively clean environment, such water storage tanks have the potential to be breeding sites of mosquitoes. Covering of water tanks with a lid will prevent mosquitoes from breeding. In slab concrete roof tops, water stagnation is common from where water is harvested, and this is a common breeding site in urban areas.

If the water bodies are too huge to drain or cover, e.g. pond; larvivorous fish may be put which will eat up the mosquito larvae.

3.      Enacting laws to prevent mosquito breeding

There are ways of controlling mosquito breeding at the individual level some of which are cited above. It is also the responsibility of various government departments and organisations to plan and formulate ways to control breeding of mosquitoes. At the village level, Village Health and Sanitation Committee along with Village Council can pass resolutions on zoning for housing, common drainage system, waste disposal, etc and organize sanitation drives for control of mosquito breeding sites.

In urban cities like Mumbai and Pune, there are Municipal Civic bylaws for the prevention of breeding sites of mosquitoes. Pune has drafted a law recently called 'Malaria, dengue, chikungunya and other insect- and mosquito-borne diseases bylaws, 2013'. Any mosquito breeding sites in or around the property of citizens can invite fine of Rs. 1000. The law direct individuals and institutions to take measures to eradicate mosquito-breeding sites on their premises. Such measures can also be adopted by municipals in Nagaland where malaria is prevalent. 

4.      Intersectoral coordination

Faulty engineering works are also responsible for creation of mosquito breeding habitats. Ensuring quality engineering work, and also considering water stagnation in the project design itself will help prevent malaria. Fishery department can help in the breeding and distribution of larvivorous fishes which is a very effective way of biological control of malaria. Department of Information and Public Relations can help in creating awareness on mosquito control during the season. Various departments like Forestry (Forest malaria), Agriculture (wet terrace fields),Irrigation, PHE (leakage from water pipes), Transport (awareness message on buses); and also NGOs and public organizations like churches, colony clubs, NSS, etc can all contribute towards mosquito control.

Research shows that we might have been underestimating the importance of source reduction in malaria control. It is not possible to remove all the stagnant water bodies which are potential health hazards. But research shows that if the water bodies are removed considerably, the mosquitoes are not so smart in locating the few water bodies. And due to the reproductive cycle of the mosquitoes, if the laying of eggs is delayed due to scarce breeding sites, the mosquito population is reduced substantially and malaria thereby prevented.

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