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After more than two years of preparation, training and community engagement activities, field teams, project partners and community leaders this month celebrated the first launch of Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in Colombo, Sri Lanka. 

The pilot project is the first of its kind in the country and aims to help quell the impact of a dengue epidemic that has emerged as a serious public health concern in Sri Lanka.

“It was wonderful to join together and celebrate this step towards reducing the burden of dengue in Sri Lanka,” Senior Project Manager Jacqui Montgomery said. “Many people asked for a mozzie box to take home, and took selfies with our mozzie mascots and the WMP tuk tuk.”

With the guidance of WMP staff, local households will be hosting mozzie boxes containing the eggs of Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes. Kept in the shade and occasionally topped up with water, the eggs will develop into adults over a couple of weeks before taking flight and integrating with the local mosquito population. 

Initially, the project is being implemented in the Nugegoda, Mattakkuliya and Kotahena districts of the city and will be closely monitored by diagnostic and epidemiology professionals over a period of at least twelve months.

It’s hoped that with the successful establishment of Wolbachia, the project will ultimately be expanded to other parts of the country. Studies in other countries have shown that in areas where high levels of Wolbachia are present, there has been no evidence of local dengue transmission.

The response from the community towards the World Mosquito Program and the implementation of the pilot program has been overwhelmingly positive. “They were so pleased that Nugegoda – where the event was held – is part of the release area. Everybody was very excited,” Dr Montgomery said.

Mr David Holly, Australian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka says Australia is pleased to support the partnership between the World Mosquito Program and the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medical Services in Sri Lanka. “It is a privilege to be sharing this Australian technology with Sri Lanka to tackle diseases, such as dengue, which have impacted many of our lives.”

The number of dengue-related cases in Sri Lanka during the first two months of 2020 has shown a growth of 75.45% when compared to the first two months of last year, with more than 16,000 recorded.

The World Mosquito Program is committed to strengthening the capacity of local communities to reduce the threat of mosquito-borne diseases. It now operates in 12 countries around the world, reaching more than 5 million people.

Learn more about our work in Sri Lanka

Posted 6 March 2020