The Proboscis

notes on medical entomology

Back in Kasungu

I’m writing this on the road from Kasungu to Lilongwe. On a phone.

This week we went back to Kasungu in central Malawi after a years absence.

As an outsider – but someone who has spent a fair bit of time in Malawi now – Kasungu feels ‘very Malawian’. The town is a long way from the big cities. Few foreigners visit. Hastings Banda comes from here. A mountain overlooks the town. Its peaceful.

Back last year we launched our project – Maladrone – in a few villages outside the main boma. The science comms team from Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust spent a week communicating the project to the villages surrounding the town. It was a joy to be part of.

Patrick Kalonde & Kennedy Zembere showcasing a drone during community engagement activities in March 2020. Due to covid – we didn’t return until this month.

And then came covid.

Its important to reflect on how vital it was to come back this week and why funders needed to grant extensions following the covid pandemic.

Ultimately, for a year we were absent. Even though there was little we could do – it doesn’t look good.

Trust is hard earned in fieldwork but easily lost.

Once the implications of covid were clear, the easy way out would be to end the project right there. But 1. we want the project to be a success and 2. where is the integrity in that?

So this week we finally set up field collections with the team aided by local fieldworkers from the villages. As ever, nothing is possible without local buy in and support. All very humbling.

Credit where its due to funders for providing a no-cost extension so we can finish what we started. Nice one Wellcome Trust.

Its very dry right now so it will be interesting to see what Anopheles are in the area. Pockets of water do remain but they are very sparse. Transmission is ongoing. How mosquito populations contract and expand in this part of the world is up for debate.

Anyway, good to be back in Kasungu.

Post-script

Our initial work on drone mapping for mosquito larval habitats has been published in Malaria Journal this week here. The paper is more of a commentary on the practical value of using drones for malaria control in this way. Enjoy. Thanks to the people of Kasungu and UNICEF for their support.

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