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Fighting Malaria Through Better Housing 

By Yerima Kini Nsom

As part of activities marking this year’s World Malaria Day, international charity organisation, Architecture for Health in Vulnerable Environment, ARCHIVE, has launched a project that seeks to use innovative architecture and community engagement to combat malaria.

ARCHIVE officials, Peter Williams and Alexandra Valerio, announced the project at a press conference at the head office of the Cameroon Coalition against Malaria, CCAM, in Yaounde on April 21.

According to them, the project, House-building Programme in Cameroon, will empower communities to use housing as a central strategy for combating malaria transmission. "We will help the poor to have better housing; the project will ensure that the surrounding environment is good, avoiding mosquito-breeding sites. We would create income-generating activities," stated Alexandra Valerio, ARCHIVES Project Coordinator.

She said Cameroon was chosen to benefit from the project because it is one of the countries with the lowest economic productivity. Going by her, more than 67 percent of Cameroonians, both in rural and urban areas, live the nightmare of poor housing that make them vulnerable to malaria. These poor housing conditions expand in an annual rate of 5.5 percent. The poor, she said, live in houses that are haphazardly constructed with gaps and spaces that allow mosquitoes to visit them at any time.

The ARCHIVE bid is a one-year project that aims to create awareness of malaria prevention strategies, especially housing within the high-risk areas of Cameroon. This, they believe, would lead to the reduction in the number of malaria-related morbidity cases, as well as, increase the number of people living in improved housing conditions and expand income generating activities.

According to the Founder and Executive of ARCHIVE, Peter Williams, five houses will be constructed in some areas in the country. After 12 months, a final evaluation will be undertaken to assess which aspects of the project can be replicated on a larger scale. Peter Williams refuted claims that they were coming to impose Western housing standards on poverty-ridden communities.

He said ARCHIVE will work hand-in-glove with local communities and help them to embark on better house construction with the use of local building materials. Hear him: "Local people will be engaged in the construction of the houses with the aim of teaching new skills to the community, expanding their income opportunities and ensuring the long term sustainability of the project."

Further commenting on the importance of the project, Alexandra Valerio stated: "There is a vast amount of evidence that demonstrates how adequate housing has proved effective in reducing malaria incidence. Research in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa has found that simple housing strategies can lead to 50 percent reduction of indoor mosquito densities. As most mosquitoes blood-feed indoors at night, simple low cost measures, such as screening doors and windows, prevent the entrance of vector mosquitoes in the home, considerably reducing the incidence."

Malaria is not only a public health problem in Cameroon, but it is also one of the main killers and a socio-economic burden in the country. According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, between 200 million and 250 million new cases of malaria are diagnosed everywhere around the world, with over 90 percent of these cases recorded in sun-Saharan Africa.

Given that malaria remains one of the top causes of mortality and morbidity in Cameroon, ARCHIVE officials told journalists they would contribute their own quota to reverse the situation.
Prior to the press conference, the ARCHIVE officials had a briefing with members of the Cameroon Media against Malaria, CAMAM.

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