By Nqobile Tshili
The hot weather, Bulawayo’s water crisis and the city’s failure to spray breeding spaces has resulted in what residents say is the worst mosquito crisis in recent years.
As soon as the sun sets, the parasites invade homes and form a buzzing cacophony that disturbs sleep.
The situation has been worsened by light showers that were received last week.
Life has become nightmarish due to itchy bites both in residential areas and at work places.
Bulawayo City Council insists the city only has “nuisance mosquitoes” that do not transmit mosquito-borne diseases, but that is little solace for residents who endure sleepless nights.
The mosquitoes found in the city are mainly culex species that bite terribly at night and people lose sleep because of them but are not harmful to health.
Health reports often state that malaria spreading female Anopheles mosquitoes are only found in the country’s eight rural provinces and have not been detected in the metropolitan provinces of Bulawayo and Harare.
Health experts yesterday told Chronicle that mosquitoes seem to have significantly increased in number compared to the previous season that runs between August and April.
A pharmacist in the city, who declined to be named, said there is evidence that there maybe more mosquitoes this year as sales of repellents and creams to soothe bites have increased.
BCC health services director Dr Edwin Sibanda said multiple factors could have led to the city experiencing the blood sucking parasites, including shortage of resources.
He said council has not been able to fumigate the usual mosquito breeding sites.
“First and foremost, we have teams which are supposed to be looking for the breeding sites, spraying the larvae and destroy the mosquitoes. But of late we have been facing challenges in procuring chemicals for killing the larvae in the breeding sites. That may have contributed to the increase in mosquitoes and secondly, there is heat being experienced and thirdly sewer bursts due to water shortages have worsened the situation as they have created mosquito breeding sites,” he said.
“We have challenges of resources to procure the needed chemicals. We don’t have the financial resources to do the procurement. Secondly, the changes in the currency system where everyone is charging everything in US dollars has made it very difficult for council which by and large receives local currency from rate payers.”
Dr Sibanda could not reveal how much was needed to procure the fumigation chemicals.
He said council has, however, started clearing streams which hold water that creates breeding space for mosquitoes.
Dr Sibanda urged residents to clear possible mosquito breeding ponds on their premises.
“A mosquito does not travel long distances and the mosquito might be breeding within their own yards.
Remember of late we have had some showers within the city and water does collect in many areas, water gutters, used tyres in yards and in some cases old cars or anything that collect water.
“It doesn’t take 2 litres of water for mosquitoes to breed, anything even if it is less than 100 millimeters will be a good breeding ground for mosquitoes.
“Therefore, residents must empty their gutters, clear all their tins and throw them away,” said Dr Sibanda.
While council does not have fumigation chemicals, residents who want their homes sprayed can approach its pest control unit.
The unit will recommend the chemicals that the residents should buy before charging its transport and labour costs depending on the size of the house.
The city’s health department charges residents $1 414 to fumigate a standard home in the western areas if residents buy their own chemicals.
A chemist told the Chronicle that chemicals used to spray mosquitoes include Bug Stop, Insect-o-kill and Icon and can be found at agrochemical shops locally.
“The chemicals cost about US$5 per sachet and residents might need to buy more than one depending on the size of the areas that they want to be sprayed,” said the chemist who asked not to be named.
The chemicals, said the chemist, have residual killing impact, meaning they continue killing parasites for weeks or even months after application.
A general medical practitioner in the city advised residents to wear long sleeved clothing, especially at night, apply insect repellants, sleep under mosquito nets and use sprays to avoid bites.
“There appears to be more mosquitoes out there. Some people develop allergic reactions to stings or they may develop sores that may become sceptic.
“Just use repellants and nets to avoid discomfort and doctors’ fees,” said the doctor. The Chronicle.