Connecting with community leaders in Medellin
Community leaders have been working with the WMP since 2016 to help disseminate information and answer questions about the implementation of our Wolbachia method in Colombia. As our staff in Medellin and Bello start a new cycle of releases, support from community leaders is as important as ever.
Here are three stories from community leaders who have been instrumental in sharing important information about our approach with their communities.
Diana Mejia is a community leader in the Guayabal neighbourhood of the Inexmoda región in Medellin. After several cases of dengue were identified in her area, she realised the importance of providing health and environmental information to residents. Diana became engaged with the World Mosquito Program’s community engagement staff because her community is looking for innovative, alternative solutions to protect from harmful mosquito-borne diseases.
“From the moment that the World Mosquito Program proposed an alternative solution, we immediately threw ourselves in,” says Diana, “because we know the difficulties that arise in mosquito control, due to the particular environmental conditions in which we live.”
José Vahos is a community leader in Bello, who started running workshops for schools and community members to help spread the word about the World Mosquito Program’s initiative. A passionate environmentalist, Jose wants to see the World Mosquito Program’s natural and effective solution for reducing mosquito-borne diseases in his community because it is safe for people, animals and the environment.
“I believe that in issues of public health, education is power,” says José, “and we must take into account that as a community, we need to participate in order to be aware of public health initiatives.”
Blanca Barrera, a retired teacher and community leader of Manrique Commune 3, works with women’s groups to provide essential community health information. She believes that by sharing knowledge, we build stronger communities that are equipped to tackle health issues - such as mosquito-borne diseases - through a holistic and unified approach.
“That is what I love most about being involved with the World Mosquito Program,” says Blanca. “I learn about the method and pass that knowledge on to people in the community, who share their experiences with us and together we build new knowledge.”
The World Mosquito Program (WMP) is working in Colombia to protect local communities from mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya.
More than 25 million people, over half Colombia’s population, are at risk of dengue. A number of large-scale outbreaks have occurred in recent years. Similarly, the number of Zika cases rapidly increased following a global outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease in 2015.
Following extensive community engagement activities in May 2015, the community of Paris in the Bello neighbourhood, welcomed the country’s first releases of Wolbachia mosquitoes. The releases came after almost two years of work in the laboratories at PECET, University of Antioquia and extensive engagement with the local community.
In early 2017, following encouraging results from small-scale trials, the WMP in Colombia expanded its project in the state of Antioquia. A large-scale research trial is now underway in Bello and Medellín. As well as scientifically measuring the impact of Wolbachia on the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases, this research is expected to demonstrate a significant reduction in new cases of Zika, dengue and chikungunya.