Villages Around Dams Risk Disappearing From Black Fly Bite

By Leocadia Bongben

Experts are worried that villages around  dams: Songloulou, Lom Pangar, Mekin, Lagdo and Nachtigal risk disappearing if nothing is done to eliminate the black fly spreading river blindness also known as Oncerchociaisis and other vectors.

Oncerchociasis is an eye and skin disease caused by a worm (filarial) known by the scientific name ‘Onchocerca volvulus’, transmitted through bite. The body of an affected person is completely destroyed and is related with epilepsy and sexual impairment.

Ten years ago a village, in the along the Sanaga river had 150 pupils in a school, today the school has been deserted as the younger generations flees from lacerating bite of the black fly. Agricultural is abandoned leading to reduction of economic activities, as the result is ghost villages as villagers leave to town.

Dr. Pierre Baleguel Nkot, President of the Yaoundé Initiative Foundation, YIF, an NGO that intervenes in the domains of health, agriculture, environment and sustainable development, says dams are a good breeding environment for the black fly.

“The black fly breeds in fast flowing water, natural or artificial like a dam that produces white water, is oxygenated and favourable for larvae. Producing artificial water, we are creating a breeding ground for insects”, he stated.

“With about 8000 bites per minute from the black fly it is difficult for the survival of the population, besides, the new dams already have 2000 bites per minute”, Nkot laments.

As a measure of prevention, YIF is protecting people around the two dams, Edea and Songloulou, by killing the larvae inside the river, but this is done in a limited area.  Consequently the black fly comes from others areas flying about 200km per day, the expert indicated.

Working to control the on the Sanaga River, Prof.  Graham Matthews, Entomologist, Imperial University London says he has been treating the river between Monatele and Edea, using Temefos spread from an engine powered boat.

“The insecticide Temefos, was first used in West Africa by the WHO to treat rivers in nine countries, using an aircraft, but insecticides are not a long term solution as the vector could develop resistance”, Graham says.

In the long term to completely eradicate the black fly and other vectors, there is need to know the current situation in the whole country, the state of the black fly and other vectors, the people living in the area, the species in the environment and where they are breeding.

Against this background, in collaboration with the Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, YIF launched a socio-environmental impact assessment of the black fly and other vectors in all the regions of Cameroon on June 21 at the Jean XXIII Centre in Nvolye.

The six-month long assessment with experts from Nigeria, London would help the government draw an eradication plan from the results, says Patrice Nsegbe, Head of Cartography at the MINEPAT and Focal Point to the impact assessment studies.

“Government has been supporting for about ten years supports YIF in the fight against the black fly. We need to make this a programme not project as it has been in the pilot zones to cover the whole country”.

He underscores the need to anticipate and put corrective measures before the projects are completed for the wellbeing of the population.

With the results of the impact assessment Cameroon could replicate what the Americans did in Tennessee in the 1930s to level water flow, though costly, Graham suggests.

 

About Camerscience

Science Journalist, Cameroon, Diploma in Science Mentoring from the World Federation of science Journalists, WFSJ

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