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“The new Panama office provides a critical inlay into Latin America.”  

Janina Khayali is the World Mosquito Program’s Americas Regional Director. Besides building a new team, furnishing the premises and exploring the city she’s also exploring potential new relationships to enable the scale-up of critical programming in Latin America. 

The Americas region is currently in the grips of a dengue epidemic. More than 3 million cases were recorded in 2019 – the most ever – and so far 2020 is on track to exceed those numbers. Panama and Argentina are experiencing major outbreaks while Brazil, Honduras and Paraguay have all declared a state of emergency. The new hub in Panama will mean the World Mosquito Program is better placed to address the growing demand for its Wolbachia method.

Janina Khayali’s vision for WMP’s role in the region is quite clear. 

“Sustainable growth – plain and simple,” she says. “In the Americas, we are an integral piece of our global goal to protect 100 million people in 5 years. According to independent research, if we secure national roll out in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico alone, we will have achieved the Americas portion of this goal – but our eyes are always on the horizon to achieve beyond that.”

The World Mosquito Program has been working in the Americas since 2011, with the first releases of Wolbachia mosquitoes in the region launching in Rio de Janeiro in 2014. Today we are also implementing our method in two major cities in Colombia and expanding our reach across the city of La Paz in Mexico

So why an office in Panama? 

“Because of the Canal,” Ms Khayali explains. “Panama is a global and regional logistics hub connected easily to the rest of the region and the world. While the countries where we work have positives for sure, none have the amenable business climate or low-risk security environment that Panama offers.”

WMP’s long term plans in the Americas are typically ambitious. Immediate priorities include expanding to new cities in Colombia and Brazil (the city of Petrolina in Brazil’s northeast is the latest to be given the green light for mosquito releases). But looking further ahead, Ms Khayali also has Paraguay, Peru and the Virgin Islands in her sights. 

“The new office in Panama will be home to the team leading the charge in the Americas,” she says. “We are creating a space for entrepreneurial thinking, opportunity identification, creative solution development and just general killing it on the ‘protecting as many people as we can’ front!” 


Posted March 11, 2020

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