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Faso Soap: A weapon against malaria?

Comments (1) Africa, Business, Featured

faso soap

A soap created by two students in Burkina Faso holds promise as an affordable way to fight the devastating disease.

As malaria threatens millions of people in Africa, a mosquito-repellent soap invented by two students in Burkina Faso may help prevent infection.

Faso Soap could be tested and produced if a crowd funding campaign launched in April is successful.

The “Save 100,000 Lives” campaign hopes to raise $113,000 to test and manufacture the soap. The goal is to save 100,000 lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda, through malaria prevention by 2018.

Gerard Niyondiko of Burundi and Moctar Dembele of Burkina Faso created Faso Soap when they were students at the International Institute for Water and Environmental Institute in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

Prize-winning invention

It was the first project from the African continent to win the $25,000 grand prize at  University of California Berkeley’s Global Social Ventures Competition in 2013, beating 650 entries from 40 countries.

Globally, more than three billion people live in areas at risk for malaria, mostly in poor tropical and sub-tropical regions.

Africa is hardest hit by the debilitating disease. An estimated 430,000 people die from malaria each year and 90 percent of the deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, mostly among children under five years old, according to one U.S. official.

Sheila Paskman, chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Liberia, said a child dies from malaria every two minutes in Africa, where the disease is also responsible more than half of all school absences. “The disease costs the continent billions each year in health costs and lost productivity,” she said.

Africa most vulnerable

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Africa is most vulnerable for a variety of reasons: A predominant species, Plasmodium falciparum, is most likely to cause death; the climate allows transmission to occur year round; and scarcity of resources hinders malaria control.

Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are hardest hit by the disease.

In other areas of the world, such as parts of South Asia and Latin America, malaria is less likely to cause death but can still result in severe illness and incapacitation, according to the CDC.

Eradication and control efforts include insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor insecticide spraying campaigns, and community education campaigns.

Officials cite progress

While the disease remains a serious problem, eradication efforts are paying off.

Since 2000, malaria death rates have fallen by 60 percent, and new cases have dropped by more than one third globally, according to the World Health Organization. In Africa, death rates dropped by more than 65 percent overall and among children less than 5 years old.

Faso Soap could be another weapon in the arsenal fighting malaria.

Niyondiko said the soap is made from Shea butter, lemongrass oil and other ingredients.

Soap is accessible, affordable

He said Faso Soap can repel mosquitoes for several hours after use and could especially offer protection in the early evening when people are still outdoors and mosquitoes appear.

The team hopes to engage in partnerships with large soap producers and distributors to create a product that is competitive with conventional soap.

The French Association for Research Against Infectious Diseases in Africa is collecting the donations. So far, the project has raised more than $42,000 from 464 contributors.

Now working with social entrepreneurs Lisa Barutel and Franck Langevin in Burkina Faso, Niyondiko said the aim is to provide an accessible and affordable product for people who may not be able to afford anti-mosquito products or nets.

“Soap is a commodity product and not going to add other additional costs to the population” as they will buy soap in any case, Niyondiko said.

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Adeeb Al Balushi: a Young Innovator

Comments (0) Featured, Leaders, Middle East

adeeb al balushi

One of the youngest inventors in the world, an Emirati schoolboy is being prepared for a future providing technological solutions to the problems of people around the world.

Adeeb Al Balushi is an eleven year old Emirati boy like any other, yet in some ways he is quite unlike most other children his age. Al Balushi is a young boy who from early childhood has been driven by a desire to help people. This started with his family when he realized that his father was limited by the performance of his prosthetic foot. In an attempt to lessen his father’s discomfort he designed a light-weight, waterproof version of the prosthetic. With this success under his belt he invented a cleaning robot for his mother having noticed that her work around the house could be made much easier. Never one to be content to rest on his laurels, his ambitions are much wider ranging: he went on to create such things as a fire proof helmet whose camera system allows the wearer to see better in a fire, a smart wheelchair and a seat belt system with a built in heart monitor which wirelessly sends what could be lifesaving information to the emergency services.

“I want to change the world. There are too many people in need of assistance and all I think of is how I can be of help,” says Adeeb Al Balushi.

World Technology Tour

Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai has been proactive in supporting the growth and development of young Emirati innovators in general, and Al Balushi in particular. In 2014, a world tour was organized to seven of the most technologically advanced countries in the world: the United States of America, France, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Italy and Belgium. The purpose of the tour was to prepare Al Balushi for a future within the field of scientific research and in so doing help raise the profile of Dubai in the field. Conferences, workshops and meetings with leading innovators within the field were carefully planned, all the time ensuring that Al Balushi’s schooling would not be significantly affected by the tour.

The young inventor was recently invited to visit the headquarters of Thuraya, one of the world leaders in satellite telecommunication technology where he was shown the way the company also works tirelessly to bring solutions to problems; Al Balushi was provided a background to Thuraya’s efforts to bring satellite technology closer to the mainstream. Such products included the Satsleeve, a device enabling an ordinary smartphone to be used as a satellite phone, as well as the company’s IP+, which is extending broadband capabilities to areas which would normally not be able to connect to a network.

Adeeb Al Balushi

Awards and recognition

His tireless thirst for invention has led to a great deal of recognition for Al Balushi. He has been awarded the Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Distinguished Academic Performance and has addressed thousands of delegates at the ITU conference in Korea. Adeeb Al Balushi is the youngest and most recognized inventor in the United Arab Emirates. He is also a member of the Arab Robotics Association, with over sixty certificates of achievement to his name; he is considered the youngest Arab inventor in this field. The year 2013 saw Al Balushi gain the UN Information Centre’s Award of Excellence, while the The Arab Youth Council for Integrated Development (Aycid) have awarded him honorary membership and named him the head of their committee for young inventors and innovators.

Persistence is key

Al Balushi is obviously a very gifted young man with the support and mentorship of a state behind him. It is also clear that he is driven in his mission to help people the world over. The passion and the associated hard work are factors, the necessity of which is not lost on him, which he takes in stride.

“There are lots of paths to take through life, but the one that will ruin everything is to decide that it’s too hard and you give up. Then all is lost and everything you have accomplished is gone. Sometimes it’s the simple changes that can lead to the biggest discoveries,” says Adeeb Al Balushi.

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