The Importance of Entomological Monitoring

The PMI VectorLink Project delivers vector control interventions and protects millions of people from contracting malaria. An integral part of our work is robust entomological monitoring, that enables entomologists to identify which mosquitoes carry malaria, the relative geographical and temporal distribution of the mosquitoes transmitting malaria, and the feeding and resting habits of the vector. Watch how we use entomological monitoring to better understand and mitigate mosquitoes’ growing resistance to insecticide, to ensure that we protect vulnerable communities from malaria.  

2018 Results and Project Outcomes

PMI VectorLink reports on a set of indicators to national partners and PMI for each spray campaign. The key outcomes achieved by the end of the campaign include the total number of structures sprayed, people protected against malaria with IRS, and country personnel trained to conduct various IRS tasks. As the project expands its vector control interventions to include insecticide-treated nets (ITNs), PMI VectorLink will also report on a specific set of indicators related to the intervention. Below is a summary of results from PMI VectorLink’s first indoor residual spray campaign, held in 2018.


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We Do Nets Too!

Integrated vector control for malaria, according to the WHO Guidelines for Malaria Vector Control, requires “rational decision-making for the optimal use of resources for vector control”.  For the U.S. President’s Initiative (PMI) VectorLink Project, it involves making vector control decisions—whether to deploy IRS or ITNs—based on epidemiological, entomological, and cost data to ensure the most vulnerable communities are protected from the burden of malaria. With the rise in mosquitoes’ resistance to certain insecticides, it is important to consider a country’s specific vector control profile – its history with IRS and ITN interventions, and the malaria vector’s resistance to each type of insecticide – when making these decisions.

Hover over the map below for a snapshot of our indoor residual spray, insecticide-treated net, and entomological monitoring activities by country.



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Johns Hopkins University visits PMI VectorLink Zambia

PMI VectorLink Zambia Boosts JHU Students’ Entomological Skills.

The U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) VectorLink Zambia team recently hosted a group of Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Master of Engineering students for a three-day hands-on entomological training. As part of their biomedical engineering program, the students focused on ways to provide innovative engineering solutions to some of the challenges entomologists face when monitoring and surveilling the Anopheles mosquito, the malaria vector.

PMI VectorLink field entomologist, Westone Hamwata (far left), JHU students, health facility staff, environmental health technicians, and community-based mosquito collectors in Lufwanyama District, Copperbelt Province, Zambia.

The PMI VectorLink Project delivers vector control interventions, protecting millions of people every year from malaria. Entomological monitoring, which is an integral part of the PMI VectorLink Project,  enables entomologists to identify which mosquitoes carry malaria, the relative geographical and temporal distribution, along with the feeding and resting habits of these mosquitoes. Monitoring also allows entomologists to determine which insecticides are the most effective at killing the malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

PMI VectorLink Zambia’s technical manager, Mohamed Bayoh, organized a series of lectures on entomology, vector control, and surveillance, and insecticide resistance to provide the students with an understanding of the current trends and challenges in vector control. The team also gave students an overview of the PMI VectorLink Project and the entomological activities currently being conducted in Zambia. Kentzo Mumba, Chief Vector Control Officer at the National Malaria Elimination Center (NMEC), and Reuben Zulu, Principal indoor residual spraying (IRS) Officer, guided the students through an in-depth analysis of Zambia’s unique country context, outlining progress made and challenges faced in implementing vector control and vector surveillance strategies at the national level. The discussion provided relevant information for the students to start thinking about ways to approach the challenges discussed and to think about what kinds of innovative solutions are needed most in vector control and surveillance. The students then toured the local insectary supported and staffed by PMI VectorLink at the NMEC, and saw how the insectary is established and maintained to better understand the role the insectary plays in national malaria elimination.

JHU students take turns identifying specimen types according to the Southern African Anopheles identification key.

The visit concluded with a field trip to one of VectorLink’s entomological monitoring sites in Zambia’s Lufwanyama District in Copperbelt Province. VectorLink field entomologist Westone Hamwata guided the students on a tour of the site where they met with community members and health workers and participated in vector surveillance activities. The JHU group also met with VectorLink-trained environmental health technicians and public health personnel from the community who are employed by the Zambian Government. The technicians showed the students how they supervise the mosquito collectors and perform morphological identification of collected mosquito samples. The technicians also gave a live demonstration of the two methods currently used for vector surveillance; pyrethrum spray catches and human landing catches. At the health technician facility, the students were given a crash course on morphological identification, provided copies of the Anopheles identification keys, and by the day’s end, they were able to identify at least one Anopheles species.

In his farewell, Professor Tristan Ford, who accompanied the student group, noted that they had “learned a lot in a few days, and were all very impressed with the support that the PMI and the PMI VectorLink Project provides to the community.”

Ghana’s Community Health Nurses Help Spread the Word about IRS

PMI VectorLink Ghana helps integrate IRS education into government-based health promotion campaigns.

Implementing health interventions can prove challenging in countries where a lack of resources poses limitations on what governments can do to help keep communities healthy. Working across 23 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Cambodia, The U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) VectorLink Project works to build the capacity of country governments to plan and implement safe, cost-effective vector control interventions to reduce the burden of malaria.

A community health nurse educating her community on the importance of indoor residual spraying.

Building capacity involves close collaboration with a country’s government and requires an in-depth understanding of a country’s unique health context. Working with Ghana’s Health Service (GHS), PMI VectorLink established the importance of IRS as a life-saving intervention and helped gain its acceptance in communities. To do this, VectorLink Ghana helped GHS, the national entity responsible for health promotion in the country, to integrate IRS messaging into their routine government health promotion activities in districts where IRS is conducted. VectorLink Ghana trained community health nurses (CHNs) from each of the project’s 25 operational sites on key messaging around IRS as key to malaria prevention. These messages served to promote the importance and benefit of the intervention, dispel myths and allay concerns about the IRS process, and to help prepare households appropriately to receive IRS on the day of spray.

Community health nurses in Ghana are at the foundation of the health promotion structure. CHNs routinely educate villages and communities on how to adopt healthy behaviors and encourage them to accept health interventions. After their training, the community health nurses were invited to experience an IRS campaign firsthand to understand the effect of their messaging on the community’s acceptance and readiness for spray. During the campaign, CHNs were able to answer questions and reduce the number of IRS refusals on the spot.

Community health nurses routinely educate their communities on the importance and benefits of IRS to encourage them to accept the intervention.

According to Ghana Health Service records, 46 of the PMI VectorLink-trained community health nurses conducted 920 IRS-related community engagement campaigns in March and April 2019. Half of the outreach was conducted in the communities while the other half was conducted in health facilities. In the 398 communities where the IRS promotion activities occurred, the average spray acceptance increased to 99.9% compared to 93.2% the previous year.




The PMI VectorLink Approach to Managing Insecticide Resistance

Managing Insecticide Resistance Starts with Entomological Monitoring & Surveillance

Since the launch of the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) in 2006, malaria control interventions across sub-Saharan Africa have scaled up dramatically, resulting in a significant decline in malaria burden. From 2010 to 2017, the number of people who died from malaria went down from 607,000 to 435,000 (WHO World Malaria Report, 2018).

Much of this progress can be attributed to the scale-up of vector control interventions like insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS); two key components of the global malaria control strategy supported by the PMI VectorLink Project.

However, mosquitoes’ growing resistance to insecticides threatens further progress and could potentially reverse the gains made in malaria control recorded in the last decade.

As a step towards addressing the issue, PMI VectorLink implements a comprehensive insecticide resistance monitoring program across sub-Saharan Africa to understand the problem and guide vector control programming. Accordingly, insecticide resistance surveillance of the primary carriers of malaria; specifically Anopheles gambiae s.l. and An. funestus s.l. is part of PMI VectorLink’s vector control efforts in Africa. Data in each project country is systematically collected to account for the different types of malaria-carrying mosquito, a country’s insecticide use practices, and vector control interventions. In most cases, all classes of insecticides, including those approved by WHO, have been continuously monitored.

Given that mosquitoes have become resistant to pyrethroids (the insecticides used in standard ITNs) in some areas, the project performs further tests to understand the level of resistance and its potential impact on the effectiveness of ITNs and IRS being implemented.  The malaria-carrying mosquitoes are tested to higher concentrations of the most common pyrethroids used in bed nets. Tests are also regularly performed to understand the type of resistance involved. One such test involves exposing mosquitoes to a synergist that does not have insecticidal properties itself, but when combined with insecticides of a particular class, considerably enhances the insecticides potency. This test determines whether the combination of synergist and insecticide is potent enough to kill the otherwise resistant mosquito. The potential for new tools that include a synergist and an insecticide can significantly help in managing insecticide resistance.

PMI VectorLink strives to stay ahead of the curve by working with global organizations and the private sector to test new insecticide and synergist products like clothianidin and chlorfenapyr. PMI VectorLink has not only developed and shared protocols for field testing these new insecticides but has also produced a significant amount of data that now informs decisions on insecticide resistance management. 

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The PMI VectorLink Approach to Managing Insecticide Resistance Includes:

  • Database: PMI VectorLink generates a large amount of multidimensional data on insecticide resistance, its intensity, and mechanism.
  • Share: The project stores, analyzes, and presents insecticide resistance data in a way that information becomes readily available for making decisions by the project and national malaria control programs. PMI VectorLink is widely known as a reliable source for insecticide resistance data among national and international stakeholders.
  • New Products: PMI VectorLink takes a leading role as a source for up-to-date information on the susceptibility of mosquitoes to new products.
  • Decisions: Several countries are now making decisions on the deployment of different types of vector control tools based on the information PMI VectorLink is generating. For example, PMI VectorLink data is helping countries decide which next-generation insecticide products to deploy.
  • Rotate and Stop the Spread of Insecticide Resistance: Rotation or large scale mosaic spray of different classes of insecticides are now being increasingly practiced as insecticide resistance management strategies in several countries. PMI VectorLink has developed a rotation plan of insecticides used for indoor residual spraying in each country it works in. Rotation is being utilized as a pre-emptive measure to slow down the development or prevent the spread of insecticide resistance and relies on credible data. 
  • Capacity Building: The project works with local universities, research institutions and other partners in the development of local capacity to advance molecular surveillance of insecticide resistance.
  • Sustainability: PMI VectorLink is developing local capacity in insecticide resistance monitoring at all levels of the health system and transferring ownership of the program to national health leaders.




PMI VectorLink Study Published in Malaria Journal

The PMI VectorLink manuscript “susceptibility testing of Anopheles malaria vectors with the neonicotinoid insecticide clothianidin; results from 16 African countries, in preparation for indoor residual spraying with new insecticide formulations” was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal, Malaria Journal on August 1, 2019.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to develop a suitable bottle bioassay procedure, there is currently no published guidance regarding clothianidin susceptibility procedures or diagnostic concentrations. The PMI VectorLink Project, therefore, developed a protocol for impregnating filter papers with 2% w/v SumiShield™ 50WG dissolved in distilled water. Susceptibility tests were conducted using insectary-reared reference Anopheles and wild-collected malaria vector species. All tests were conducted within 24 hours of treating papers, with mortality recorded daily for 7 days, due to the slow-acting nature of clothianidin against mosquitoes. Anopheles gambiae sensu lato (s.l.) adults from wild-collected larvae were tested in 14 countries, with wild-collected Anopheles funestus s.l. tested in Mozambique and Zambia.

Read more about the study in the publication here.

For more information, contact:
PMI VectorLink Project, Abt Associates, 6130 Executive Blvd, Rockville, MD 20852, USA

Mobile Data Collection for Rapid Decision Making

PMI VectorLink Burkina Faso is our first IRS country to pilot and implement mobile data collection by the Spray Operator at the household level. 547 Spray Operators collected IRS data on tablets across all the VL Burkina Faso spray districts! The Burkina Faso M&E team worked for months with NMCP and District Health Officials to design the data collection tool.

M&E Manager Asseta Sigue and Database Manager Jean Dieudonne Damiba developed the new training tool, working with former SOPs to improve its usability, and then trained Supervisors how to use it. 

Asseta Sigue (right) works with a former SOP on how to fill in the tablet.


The mobile data collection enabled the M&E team to quickly inform the Operations team and Supervisors in the field on spray progress, coverage, and reasons for non-spray cases. In turn, those in the field could make rapid decisions to correct course. Congratulations to the team on a job well done!


Gender Success in Ghana

PMI VectorLink Promotes Safety and Inclusion of Women in the Workplace.

“I observed and learned the roles and responsibilities of a site manager in the course of previous campaigns. Deep within me, I was confident I would be able to carry these roles out successfully” – Warihana Amadu, IRS Site Manager

Warihana Amadu, a native of Gushegu in the Northern Region of Ghana, is a site manager and among many women who have been able to secure leadership positions on the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) VectorLink Project. Her first experience on the program was in 2017 when she was hired as a washer. She applied for the job because, as a woman, she believed it was the only job she was qualified for. “Coming from a matrimonial home, women were mostly relegated to the background,” Warihana said. As a result, many women forgo certain opportunities due to the perception that they are reserved for men. 

Committed to bridging the gender gap, PMI VectorLink actively promotes gender equality and female empowerment by increasing the role of women at all levels of its operations. To encourage women’s participation, PMI VectorLink Ghana has put in place a number of initiatives that advance female staff into supervisory roles. Ensuring women have the training and opportunities they need to succeed helps to build their confidence in executing higher-demand positions that carry more responsibility. PMI VectorLink Ghana went even further to create a female-friendly work environment by taking into consideration the unique needs of women to inform project policy and guidelines at all levels. From providing female staff with sanitary pads to working with colleagues in Kenya to design and implement a harassment-free policy that is now used in each of the countries we work, VectorLink Ghana has made sure that women feel safe and included at the workplace.

“Deep within me, I was confident I would be able to carry these roles out successfully.” – Warihana Amadu, IRS Site Manager

These initiatives have paid off tremendously, especially during the 2019 spray campaign when VectorLink Ghana saw a significant increase in the number of women hired. The number of women hired into supervisory roles increased from 36 in 2018 to 54 in 2019, while the total number of women hired to support IRS activities increased by 23.4 % from 380 in 2018 to 469 in 2019.

PMI VectorLink Ghana emphasizes women’s safety and involvement at all levels of spray operations.

Increasing women’s involvement in IRS not only increases their economic empowerment but positions them as role models for other women and young girls in their communities. Motivated to move up in responsibility on the project, Warihana applied for the position of a site manager for the 2019 spray campaign. “I observed and learned the roles and responsibilities of a site manager in the course of previous campaigns,” she said. 

Warihana was successfully recruited and assigned to an operational site in Gushegu District, where she successfully managed IRS spray operations, covering 2,995 homes and protecting 35,315 people.

Reducing Costs and Expanding Coverage

PMI VectorLink Rwanda Goes Beyond the Call to Action to Protect More People from Malaria.

Indoor residual spraying (IRS) is one of the most effective vector control interventions that kills malaria-carrying mosquitoes by spraying insecticide on walls, ceilings and other indoor resting places of those mosquitoes. Since 2006, the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) has protected millions of people in Africa from malaria through IRS. Though effective, IRS is also a costly and complex operation that requires rigorous planning, supervision, and monitoring to ensure its success.

Reducing the operational costs of IRS while maintaining coverage, and protecting as many people as possible from malaria is a fine balance – a balance that the PMI VectorLink team in Rwanda was able to strike in their most recent 2018 spray campaign. As a result of various cost-saving measures, the Rwanda team was able to support additional activities to further our impact in the lives of Rwandans at risk of malaria.

Home to over 54,000 Burundian refugees, Mahama Camp is commonly referred to as Kirehe’s ’13th Sector’ and once contributed to 50% of the district’s malaria cases. Photo by Cheyenne Cook/Abt Associates.

In a collaborative effort with the Rwandan Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Malaria and Other Parasitic Diseases Division (MOPDD), the PMI VectorLink Project was able to expand its coverage beyond Nyagatare and Kirehe Districts to also conduct a spray campaign in Rwanda’s Mahama Refugee Camp. Home to over 54,000 Burundian refugees, Mahama Camp is commonly referred to as Kirehe’s ’13th Sector’ and once contributed to 50% of the district’s malaria cases. 

As a humanitarian response to thousands of Burundians fleeing violence in their country, the Mahama Refugee Camp was established in April 2015. Today over 50,000 refugees live in the camp – almost half of whom are children, who are particularly vulnerable to malaria.

“Before IRS, it was rare to pass 5 houses without coming across someone who was suffering from malaria.”

To reduce the burden of the disease at Mahama Camp, the MOPDD provided insecticide while PMI VectorLink provided technical and operational support during spray activities. By using spray operators hired and trained to spray the project’s original target districts, PMI VectorLink reduced costs from nearly $45,000 originally budgeted to spray the camp, to just $8,000. As a result, PMI VectorLink was able to protect an additional 53,325 people from malaria, including 1,328 pregnant women and 9,810 children under 5. 

Cedric Niyonkuru, a 25-year-old refugee who fled his home in Burundi during his second year at university, is now living at Mahama Camp. Photo by Cheyenne Cook/Abt Associates.

Cedric Niyonkuru, a 25-year-old refugee who fled his home in Burundi during his second year at university, is now living at Mahama Camp. He has seen firsthand how destructive malaria can be to a community. “Before IRS, it was rare to pass 5 houses without coming across someone who was suffering from malaria. Everyone in the family would get sick – so much so, that no one would be able to care for one another,” he said. “It was terrible. Because of this, other health complications came up. Every day people were dying.”

Since IRS has been introduced at Mahama Refugee Camp, Niyonkuru said, “the community has seen a huge reduction in malaria cases. Now it’s rare to come across anyone who suffers from the disease.”