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Mosquitoes giving Bulawayo residents sleepless nights

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Mosquitoes giving Bulawayo residents sleepless nights. With their slender segmented body, a pair of halteres, three pairs of long hair-like legs and drawn-out mouth-parts, mosquitoes are giving Bulawayo residents a torrent of sleepless nights.

Hovering seamlessly at ear level with a persistent and incommodious whine, mosquitoes leave you with bites that subsequently lead to itchy and puffy welts. For residents of Bulawayo, the onset of dusk marks the beginning of yet another nightmarish experience punctuated by endless mosquito bites.

The tiny insects invade their homes, creating a cacophony of an irritating and ear-piercing buzzing that robs them of hours of peaceful sleep. The hot weather coupled with Bulawayo City Council (BCC)’s failure to spray breeding spaces has worsened the plight of residents as they continue to bear the agony of daily mosquito attacks.

Unlike other parts of the country where malaria is endemic, mosquitoes in Bulawayo are only a nuisance rather than a serious threat. In interviews, residents who spoke to Chronicle took council to task over its failure to spray mosquitos breeding spaces in swampy areas.

Mr Elson Denhe of Njube said bedtime for them has turned into a terrible nightmare due to the constant buzz of mosquitoes. “We are enduring sleepless nights because of mosquitoes, which have become a thorn in the flesh. Our houses are built near a stream which flows into Mazayi River and this has become a breeding site for mosquitoes,” he said.

“Council used to spray these areas, but for the past five years, they haven’t been doing so and this is now affecting us as residents.” Another resident, Ms Margaret Gomba said the situation is being worsened by perennial sewer pipe bursts, which are not being attended to on time.

“We know that mosquitoes are synonymous with the summer season, but what is exacerbating this menace is failure by council to attend to burst sewer pipes. Every day, you find effluent flowing in the streets and into houses creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes,” she said.

Mr Melusi Ndlovu of New Magwegwe said the mosquito problem in Bulawayo is a ticking health time bomb. “Mosquitoes are known to be vectors that transmit malaria, a life-threatening disease, through their bites and if our local authority fails to spray breeding spaces, we are likely to face a serious health crisis in Bulawayo,” he said.

Ms Moyo of Makokoba said because of the sweltering heat, they were forced to abandon blankets, thus giving mosquitoes an opportunity to strike. “We just can’t find sleep with these mosquitoes hovering over our heads at every nightfall. They are a nuisance and in Makokoba, we have a problem of sewer pipe bursts resulting in pools of stagnant water forming,” she said.

“The council through its pest control unit should fumigate these breeding spaces during this season, but sadly they are not doing anything.” Mosquito breeding reaches a peak during the hot, wet months, mainly from September to March. The Ministry of Health and Child Care supports the city with drugs and equipment for malaria treatment.

BCC corporate communications manager Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said while council has a mosquito control programme, they are facing challenges in procuring chemicals for killing the larvae in the breeding sites and manpower shortages.

“Council has a mosquito control programme which involves spraying of streams and water bodies to control mosquito larvae as well as intra-domiciliary residual spraying, which is a method of controlling adult mosquitoes by spraying houses with residual insecticide,” she said.

“Larviciding has not started due to chemical stock outs and human resource shortages. The chemicals are not locally available and therefore, the prices fluctuate resulting in frequent stock outs.” Mrs Mpofu said the coronavirus pandemic has also impacted negatively on their programme since the same teams have been overwhelmed by the need to conduct disinfections in line with Covid-19 prevention protocols.

“There is also stream bank clearing which entails removal of growth in the streams to prevent pooling of water which offers breeding points for mosquitoes,” she said. Mrs Mpofu said the entire city has been affected by mosquitoes. She said they have tasked a team to closely monitor open water bodies for any breeding.

“This is an ongoing process and members of the public are also urged to report any possible sources of mosquito breeding so that urgent action is taken. However, it should be noted that mosquito control is everyone’s responsibility and therefore, we should all play an active role in destroying their breeding sites,” she said.

Mosquitoes breed in shallow and stagnant water, empty containers such as tins, drums, plastics and tyres, roof gutters, disused swimming pools and fish ponds, pits, reservoirs and tanks, including septic tanks.

“Any empty containers should be placed under a roof or turned down to avoid collection of water. If they are not used, dispose of them without delay. Clear roof gutters of leaves before the rains start to avoid blockages. Once gutters and drains are blocked rain water collects and mosquitoes breed in them,” said Mrs Mpofu.

“Disused swimming pools and fish ponds collect water and mosquitoes breed in them. A few drops of paraffin weekly prevent mosquito breeding and covering the swimming pool with plastic sheeting also helps.”

Mrs Mpofu said the mosquitoes found in the city are mainly culex species that bite terribly at night but don’t carry parasites or pathogens harmful to humans.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), malaria deaths have sharply declined in Zimbabwe with the country achieving a 79 percent reduction in cases between 2004 and 2020. In Zimbabwe, statistics continuously show that the disease remains a major challenge in certain districts, particularly in seven of the country’s 10 provinces.

WHO recommends protection for all people at risk of malaria with effective malaria vector control. Two forms of vector control — insecticide-treated mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying — are effective in a wide range of circumstances.

British doctor Ronald Ross, who was the first person to discover the malarial parasite living in the gastrointestinal tract of the anopheles mosquito in the 19th Century, recruited teams to eliminate the larvae from stagnant pools and marshes.

Source – Bulawayo24

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