Scientists are using drones to fight malaria in Zanzibar

The Millennium Development Goals prompted a number of large scale campaigns across sub-Saharan Africa to combat malaria. Millions of bed nets were distributed. Insecticide was supplied to spray in homes across communities. The aim was to stop people getting bitten, interrupting the transmission cycle.

It’s been a real success story, leading to a notable decrease in the disease’s prevalence. Some areas of Zanzibar have seen prevalence levels drop from 40% of the population having malaria to less than 1%.

Now epidemiologists and public health managers are looking to complement indoor-based nets and spraying with outdoor based solutions. In effect, they’re taking the battle to mosquitoes. And drones are a crucial part of their armory. One of the main challenges to disease managers is finding small water bodies that mosquitoes use to breed. This is where drones come in – for the first time, drone imagery can be captured over large areas which can be used to create precise and accurate maps of potential habitats.

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