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Mosquito-repellent soap invetnted
 

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Students wash their hands before eating at the school' canteen in N'zikro (Abboiso - Ivory Coast).
October 27, 2015. REUTERS/THIERRY GOUEGNON
 
by Emma Batha,
thurs, 12-May-2016, 5:01pm
 

DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Two former students from Burkina Faso have designed a mosquito-repellent soap, which they hope could be a simple and affordable solution in the fight to end malaria, but more funds are needed to test the idea, according to the startup behind it. Moctar Dembélé and Gérard Niyondiko, the brains behind Faso Soap, were awarded a $25,000 prize for their invention in 2013 when they became the first African winners of the Global Social Venture Competition at the University of California Berkeley. Yet Faso Soap must be tested to ensure it is safe for human use and effective at preventing malaria before it can be mass produced by soap manufacturers in Africa, said Franck Langevin, campaigns director for the Ouagadougou-based startup. The soap, created from natural oils and plants, could prove successful in preventing malaria as it would be cheap and rely on existing habits of African households, Langevin said. "People in Africa are very reluctant to change their habits, but soap is present in most homes, and is used for bathing, cleaning the house and washing clothes," he said. The soap is designed to repel mosquitoes up to six hours after being applied, and once soapy water is thrown away on the street, hinder the insects from breeding in stagnant water. "It is a simple and affordable weapon in the fight against malaria," Langevin told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Last month, Faso Soap launched a crowdfunding appeal for $113,000 to finalise the development of the soap with the aim of distributing it in six African countries hardest-hit by malaria by 2018, working with soap manufacturers and aid agencies. Last year, there were 214 million cases of malaria worldwide with the mosquito-borne disease killing 438,000 people, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Jo Lines, reader of malaria control and vector biology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, praised the idea behind the soap, but said it would be dangerous to rely on an untested product to protect against malaria. As a social startup, Langevin said Faso Soap has struggled to attract funding from donors, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations children's agency (UNICEF), prompting the inventors to turn to crowdfunding. World leaders committed to ending malaria by 2030 when they adopted the Sustainable Development Goals last year. Europe last month became the first region to be declared malaria-free after reporting no indigenous cases in 2015, and a former WHO official said the world can eliminate the disease soon, but only with more investment to end and keep it at bay. (Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Katie Nguyen; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

Promotion:

Mugisha, PATH's Uganda director, said women in rural areas could spend an entire day trekking to a clinic and queuing for contraceptives only to discover they were out of stock.

Promotion:

"In Africa, one of the hindrances with family planning is access. The second hindrance is us men," he said.

"Most men don't want family planning. Some want more children, but others think it interferes with their sex life. With Sayana Press a woman has the freedom to decide when she wants children and when she doesn't, and the man will have no control; the man will not know, which is very good."

Mugisha said self-injectable contraceptives would also reduce the high numbers of women dying during botched abortions in Uganda.

UNMET NEED

Some 225 million women in developing countries have an unmet need for family planning, according to U.N. data.

If this need were met, unintended pregnancies would fall by 70 percent, unsafe abortions by 74 percent, maternal deaths by 25 percent and newborn deaths by 18 percent.

Trials with Sayana Press, which is manufactured by Pfizer, are being carried out to ensure women can remember to take it, administer it correctly and dispose of the device safely so that it does not get picked up by children.

Nomi Fuchs-Montgomery, an expert on contraceptive technology at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is helping support the trials, said early indications were very positive.

"We see so much promise with this," she added. "This is really the future."

Fuchs-Montgomery said increasing the availability of contraception had a major role to play in meeting many of the Sustainable Developing Goals - the U.N. goals agreed last year for ending inequality and extreme poverty.

Access to contraception allows women to complete their education, follow careers and participate economically which has "an incredible knock-on effect" on their wider communities and national development, she added.

PATH is also conducting trials in Burkina Faso and Niger where community health workers are using the device to deliver contraceptives to women.

Some 5,500 delegates from over 160 countries - including policy makers, business leaders, health workers, activists and celebrities - are attending the Women Deliver conference which ends on Thursday.


the story comes courtesy of Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.


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