Wolbachia campaign

THE official launch of the World Mosquito Program (WMP) last month brings new hope to Fiji’s battle against mosquito-borne diseases, with the potential to massively reduce the risk of potentially deadly outbreaks of dengue, chikungunya and Zika.

However, this is only possible with the support of communities across the Suva-Nausori corridor, the location of WMP’s Fijian pilot project.

The team wants locals to be curious, and they encourage questions and comments about their unique method.

It involves breeding a colony of Fijian Aedes aegypti mosquitoes (the species primarily responsible for dengue outbreaks) that carry Wolbachia — safe and naturally occurring bacteria that is already present in 60 per cent of all insect species around the world.

These mosquitoes will then be released into communities, where they will breed with wild mosquitoes in the area, passing Wolbachia from one generation to the next.

Over time, it is expected almost all the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes will carry Wolbachia, dramatically reducing infections of dengue, chikungunya and Zika.

This low-cost, sustainable approach is being brought to Fiji by Australia’s Monash University and Fiji’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services but before any releases can take place, strong community backing is required.

Over the next few months, WMP’s local Fijian team will be talking with communities across Suva and Nausori, sharing information about how the Wolbachia method works.

In the meantime, WMP Fiji is currently working to set up an independent reference group that will represent the interests of the diverse Suva-Nausori communities.

The community reference group (CRG) will monitor the transparency and inclusiveness of WMP Fiji’s community engagement and communications, to ensure all voices are heard. The CRG will consist of representatives from local community and institutions, extending from health department, public health research, community leaders to local government and civil society organisations.

The key selection criteria for CRG members will be that they are of good repute, able to work effectively in a group, understand community dynamics and motivations, and have knowledge of, and connection to, local networks.

This game-changing initiative requires your support.

If you are a passionate individual who would like to volunteer to be part of the CRG, connect with WMP Fiji today.

If you are a member of the community along the Suva and Nausori corridor, you can expect to see the team wearing white and blue shirts showcasing WMP logo, talking about Wolbachia.

They may even knock on your door.

World Mosquito Program values community support.

Those wanting more information can contact WMP Fiji at fiji@worldmosquito.org and visit www.worldmosquitoprogram.org.

Let’s welcome Wolbachia — together.

* Priya Chand is the communications officer for the World Mosquito Program. For more information, visit www.worldmosquitoprogram.org

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