Any tropical disease expert will tell you that the best way to avoid getting malaria is to not get bitten. But with the rainy season quickly approaching, malaria-bearing mosquitoes are going to be multiplying all across Africa. The World Health Organization estimates that this fever-inducing parasite claimed 395,000 lives on the continent in 2015 alone; it is especially deadly among children under five, the elderly and pregnant women. Just this February,Rebecca “Mama Masika” Katsuva, the Congolese heroine who spent decades standing up for the victims of war-related sex crimes, succumbed to the disease.
Faso-soap malaria fighting-students
Moctar Dembélé of Burkina Faso and Gérard Niyondiko of Burundi
So it is especially exciting to see some of Africa’s sharpest minds go to work in search of life-saving solutions. Enter Moctar Dembélé of Burkina Faso and Gérard Niyondiko of Burundi. The two former students made history in 2013, when they beat “650 competitors from nearly 40 countries” to become not only the first Africans but the first non-American team to win the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC).
Their brilliant idea? Faso Soap – a malaria fighting soap they invented using shea butter, citronella and other insect-repelling herbs sourced locally from Burkina Faso. The inventors say they chose soap as a way to protect a wide variety of users because it is low cost and widely used by people of all backgrounds, so it doesn’t require people to accept a whole new behavior:
“In our country the majority of the population lives below the poverty line,”Niyondiko explained to CNN, “so we thought of a repellent and larvicidal mosquito soap which will be accessible and affordable to the majority of the population, seeing that soap is a commodity product and especially not going to add other additional costs to the population.”
The soap is designed to leave an insect-repelling scent on users skin after bathing; dirty water containing the soap residue will also drive mosquitoes away from standing water, which is a popular breeding ground for the bloodthirsty pests. “Our soap will fulfill the desire of the population to be clean, as well as protect them from malaria, without any additional cost to them,” Niyondiko added.