World Malaria Day: A Soap that Carries Hope

Monday, April 25
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Planet Earth, Planet Earth

Today is World Malaria Day, which aims to raise awareness about malaria and bring countries together "to showcase their successes in malaria control" and "unify diverse initiatives in the changing global context." Malaria is a potentially lethal fever transmitted by mosquitoes through a parasite that invades the red blood cells. In 2015 there were still 3.2 billion people (almost half the global population) at risk of contracting malaria and it caused the death of 438,000 of them. While malaria rates are falling, with a reduction in cases by 60% since the year 2000, sustaining and improving upon this success will require even more positive innovation and considerable effort.

Progress So Far
So far the initiatives taken to reduce malaria infections and deaths have been many, however, Indoor Residual Spraying programs (IRS), which cover homes in insecticides, and the distribution of mosquito nets have been the most effective. Both these programs have had an important impact on reducing cases of malaria and are supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), however, they have some limitations, which prevent them from solving the problem completely. Firstly, IRS is often expensive, inaccessible, and there are negative health impacts that can result from the indoor spraying of insecticides and secondly, mosquito nets are only used at night but mosquitoes are very active at dusk while people are still outdoors.

"And What If the Soap That Africans Use Everyday Could Prevent Malaria?"
Gerard Niyondiko, an engineer from Burundi who suffers from previous malaria infections identified the need for a new innovation. He wanted to increase the amount of time that people were protected from Malaria. Knowing that soap is one of the few products that is found in 95% of households on the African continent, Niyondiko asked himself, "what if the soap that Africans used everyday could wash and prevent malaria?" This led Niyondiko to invent Faso Soap, a mosquito repellent soap that can prevent malaria infection for up to six hours after use. It is the first project from the African continent to win the Global Social Ventures Competition (University of Berkeley). By adding soap as one of the prevention methods for malaria, the Faso Soap team aims to offer protection for the early evening when mosquitoes come out and people are still outdoors and exposed. They are hoping to partner with large soap producers and distributors in order to create a product that is competitive with conventional soap.

With the objective to reach 183 million people in the highly affected sub-saharan countries of Nigeria, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Ghana, Ethiopia and Uganda, Faso Soap has launched its "Save 100,000 lives" campaign in order to raise €100,000 and save 100,000 people from malaria by 2018. As a locally developed solution that is simple and accessible, Faso Soap could be the new innovation that has an extra impact in the fight against malaria and lead to its eventual eradication.

Originally published on The Huffington Post