Mosquito releases begin in Fiji’s Western Division
There were blue skies in Fiji’s Western Division as the World Mosquito Program released the first of its Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in Nadi.
Residents of Narewa village joined New Zealand High Commissioner Jonathan Curr, and Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete to release the Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes, which help to reduce the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever. The event marked the beginning of the World Mosquito Program's Western Division Project, which will reach an additional 120,000 people in Fiji.
A traditional sevusevu ceremony saw the visitors to the village present a waka root to the village chief, who accepted the gift to make cava to share. Respect for local culture and working with traditional communities is central to the World Mosquito Program's approach.
The Minister described the event as an incredible moment for the World Mosquito Program and the communities of Nadi and Lautoka.
“Diseases such as dengue take an unthinkable toll on grieving and suffering families, with national statistics showing an alarming 4000 confirmed cases of dengue in Fiji in 2018 alone, with nine fatalities,” he said.
“It places a significant social and economic burden on our society at all levels, including the Fijian Government, making this intervention critical in the Western Division where dengue outbreaks are common and devastating.”
Months of community awareness work led by the local World Mosquito Program team has ensured that the project has the support of Fijian communities. Two independent community reference groups consisting of community leaders from Nadi and Lautoka have endorsed the project.
Chairperson of the Nadi Community Reference Group and local Chief Health Inspector Ms Premila Chandra, said the support echoed the wishes of the general public.
"We never thought that there could come a time where somebody would research on a mosquito that is safe," Ms Chandra said.
“This is a wonderful health initiative and we are very impressed by the way the World Mosquito Program has engaged local communities across Nadi and Lautoka, listened to their questions and included as many people as possible in the feedback process.”
“Today’s experience in helping release the first Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes was inspiring because we know this project has so much potential to create a better future for Fiji,” Ms Chandra said.
Mr Joji Satala, Turaga ni Koro of Namoli Village, agrees. “We have been very impressed with the work done to engage Lautoka and Nadi communities over the past few months,” he says.
“The people in the west are ready to receive this new, sustainable tool to help us prevent diseases that have affected so many Fiji citizens over the years.”
The World Mosquito Program’s Project Coordinator in Fiji Mr Aminiasi Tavui said that the releases of Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes will focus on high-risk areas in the Western Division.
“We are hoping to establish Wolbachia in the local mosquito populations in areas where the Ministry of Health and Medical Services has identified a high chance of outbreaks,” Mr Tavui says.
“We hope to see similar success to that of our Central Division Project, where we expect to see a reduction in dengue transmission in the areas we have released and beyond.”
Over the next few months, Nadi and Lautoka locals can expect to see World Mosquito Program’s field staff releasing Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes from small white tubes. These mosquitoes will breed with wild mosquitoes in the area, passing Wolbachia to their offspring. Over time, it is expected that almost all the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes will carry Wolbachia, significantly reducing the risk of outbreaks for years to come.
The World Mosquito Program is working in Fiji in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and Live and Learn Environmental Education, with funding from the New Zealand Aid Programme.
Learn more about our work in Fiji.