On this World Malaria Day, there’s a call for increased funding for indoor residual spraying, or IRS, as a means of preventing the disease.
The NGO Africa Fights Malaria says IRS has saved millions of lives since the 1930’s and continues to do so. However, it says the prevention method is still underused and underfunded. IRS is the spraying of insecticides on the inside walls of houses to repel or kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Jasson Urbach, southern Africa director for Africa Fights Malaria, spoke from Cape Town to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about why IRS is needed.
“I think Indoor Residual Spraying is very important because in the past few years it hasn’t really gained the attention that it should have in terms of the policy shifts that have really focused on distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets. And what Africa Fights Malaria is essentially asking for now is that we bring back to the fore Indoor Residual Spraying. And as we know, Indoor Residual Spraying along with treatment [were] the cornerstones of the malaria eradication campaign in the 1950’s. And it registered resounding successes across the world, eliminating malaria from North America and many parts of Europe and other places around the globe,” he says.
Urbach says that IRS is under funded because it’s so much easier to donate funding for insecticide-treated bed nets. “Up until this point, people have claimed every net saves a life, but I think in practices this doesn’t actually translate into that. Otherwise you could have solved the malaria problem a long time ago. I think malaria is a very complex disease and we need indoor residual spraying as part of an integrated vector control strategy. I’m not saying that insecticide-treated nets don’t have a place in malaria control whatsoever. That’s certainly not my point at all,” he says.
Africa Fights Malaria is also calling for funding for research and development of new insecticides for use in IRS. “All the insecticides that we’re using for public health purposes have all been developed by the agricultural sector. And there haven’t been any specific technologies that have been used in terms of creating new insecticides for public health purposes. So, we need to get this type of investment going,” he says.
He fears that Mosquitoes will build up resistance to the current insecticides being used.
Urbach says while the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria does provide some funding for IRS, a greater resource is the President’s Malaria Initiative, PMI, created by President Bush. It’s a five-year, $1.2 billion program. “It’s going to 15 African countries and eventually it’s going to benefit approximately 175 million people…. The PMI is particularly important; it’s highly transparent. So we know exactly what the funding is going towards. It’s also a holistic program in the sense that it’s both funding control strategies, in terms of providing funding for Indoor Residual Spraying and insecticide treated nets, as well as treatments through the highly effective artemisinin-based combination therapies,” he says.