Keeping water in and mosquitos out with drum-proofing

When a mosquito is looking for a place to lays its eggs it has many options as it hunts for stagnant water in discarded cans and bottles, in old unused tires and in the myriad of water collecting waste that surround where humans live. However, some of the best conditions for mosquitos are in things people would rather not throw away – water storage drums. Data from the Dominica Ministry of Health found that the drum, a water storage container kept in around 90 percent of Dominican homes, was the most common mosquito breeding container in Dominica (70 percent of all mosquito breeding sites were drums).

The Dominica Red Cross Society has responded to this threat by working with communities to stop these drums from becoming mosquito breeding grounds. “We want to have the biggest impact in the communities we work with so we’ve gone after the biggest mosquito problem we can find. The drum-proofing activity gives us a chance to educate people while giving them something tangible that can prevent their families from getting sick.” explains Sylvester Jean-Baptiste, Zika Project Manager for Dominica Red Cross.

The drums are most often left outside, near the home and collect rainwater to be used for household chores. So, a lid is often not the best solution to the problem because while it keeps mosquitoes out, it also stops water from collecting in the drum. The solution was to create a water permeable mesh cover for the drum that could be tightly sealed, that prevented mosquitoes from entering and adding a tap to the drum’s base so that water could be easily accessed. The materials for this activity were purchased with the support from USAID through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) to the Dominica Red Cross Zika Project. The materials for this exercise were aligned with previous efforts to proof drums spearheaded by Environmental Health Officers through a PAHO supported Ministry of Health project.

Throughout the activities, staff and volunteers from Dominica Red Cross who had been trained through the project educated community members about the Aedes mosquito, which transmits Zika, dengue and chikungunya, where it breeds and how to prevent them. The Zika project has allowed Dominica Red Cross to take a multi-pronged approach to fighting the Aedes mosquito from activities like this which promote community-based vector control to risk communication and warning pregnant women and their partners about Zika risks.

Dominica Red Cross targeted three communities for the drum-proofing exercise – Grand Bay, Soufriere and Marigot where 90 drums were “mosquito-proofed”. Drum-proofing activities were interrupted on September 18 2017 when Hurricane Maria hit the island, the first Category 5 hurricane to strike Dominica. Dominica Red Cross staff and volunteers mobilized quickly to respond to the disaster and the experience of drum-proofing was not forgotten. The drum-proofing exercise building of lessons learnt in the Zika project, was built into the Hurricane Maria Emergency Appeal noting the increased threat of mosquito borne-diseases after the disaster.

Dominica Red Cross has procured the materials for a second round of drum-proofing activities through ongoing support from IFRC through USAID. Replication of this activity in other countries in the Caribbean wide Zika Prevention and Response project are planned for the projects third year in 2019.

Download the pdf of this success story here.

Understanding knowledge, attitudes and practices to fight Zika

In an outbreak communities are the frontline in the fight to stopping the spread of disease. However, with new diseases now frequently emerging due to impacts of urbanisation, climate change and increasingly mobile global populations, it is difficult for people to keep up with the pace of new information and know what to do to protect themselves. Between June and October 2018 thirteen Caribbean Red Cross National Societies completed large scale efforts to find out more about what communities know, how they think about, and what they do to prevent Zika.

“In order to help people combat the threat of this disease now and in the future, we need to understand what they already know about it how they have been already working to prevent it. We want to tackle people`s misconceptions about the virus and help them to collectively protect their communities and support those people who may be affected.” said Nasir Khan, Caribbean Zika Prevention and Response Project manager for IFRC.

The Caribbean region is no stranger to viruses transmitted by mosquitoes, with Dengue and Chikungunya, spread by the same Aedes mosquito, now commonplace in the region. However, Zika has another dimension to it with the risks of congenital Zika syndrome (including microcephaly) and the fact that it can also be sexually transmitted. To find out more about what people knew, how they understood and what practices they engaged in to prevent Zika a Knowledge Attitudes and Practices (KAP) survey was carried out in 13 countries that are part of IFRC’s Caribbean Zika Prevention and Response Project supported by USAID.

In total 1667 surveys were collected across English speaking countries in the Caribbean and Suriname. Carrying out data collection from households at this scale can be a challenge, especially when it comes to making sure all data is captured and made quickly available for analysis. To meet this challenge Caribbean National Societies were supported with training and support to use Open Data Kit (ODK) an open source tool that is used widely in humanitarian organizations to collect field data.

Results of the KAP survey showed that people were concerned about Zika and while most knew it was caused by a mosquito, few were aware that it could also be sexually transmitted. Some people were engaged in actions that might help mosquitoes stop breeding but are likely to need more support to scale up actions to protect the wider community.

A great strength of the Red Cross is our ability to stand alongside our communities, to hear and understand what is going on at the ground level. The information we get from listening to community voices is invaluable to us and other partners in the Caribbean region in addressing Zika and the health challenges of the future.” explained Erin Law, Global Zika Advisor for IFRC.

The Knowledge Attitudes and Practices Survey on Zika in the Caribbean was conducted by Red Cross National Societies in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, The Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago. Technical support was provided by the IFRC Country Cluster for the English-speaking Caribbean and Suriname, IFRC Innovation Team in the Americas Regional Office and the Caribbean Disaster Risk Management (CADRIM) Reference Centre in Barbados.

Read the Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices Survey Report

Download the pdf Caribbean Red Cross Success Story