The purpose of the Bɔkɔɔ Malaria Prevention Project is to outfit mosquito bed nets with fans and light to make the usage of nets both more comfortable with the fan which will help increase use of this cost-effective malaria prevention tool. These systems that include the mosquito bed net and the Bɔkɔɔ Fan Console can be utilized in both off-grid and on-grid applications. While the focus of our organization is on off-grid applications, we also see a need for our system in areas where malaria is endemic and electricity is available.
Malaria is a serious, yet solvable problem. Somewhere in the world a child dies every 30 second from this disease, 1 million people die of malaria each year in Africa alone, and 20,000 children will die from malaria this year in Ghana, the country where our project is being launched.
Our Off-grid Project Objective
- Reduce malaria rates by increasing bed net usage while providing renewable electricity to villages that have none.
- Community buy-in and empowerment. This project is not a hand out. Families are required to pay a monthly fee to pay off the cost of their solar system over time, equal to what they now pay for lighting sources. Local representatives will work with communities to help facilitate the financing of the Bɔkɔɔ solar systems.
- Create local jobs through the sales, distribution, installment, maintenance and financing of the Bɔkɔɔ solar systems.
Bɔkɔɔ Project Study
Our malaria prevention Boko Project was awarded funding to do a comprehensive study of our net usage rates with Tulane University’s Center for Applied Malaria Research and Evaluation and the University of Switzerland- Basel’s Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research. The completed study showed that bed net use rates where higher than 90% while the Bɔkɔɔ system was in place. Average bed net use rates in Africa are currently around 50% and a little higher in Ghana at 60%, which means implementation of the Bɔkɔɔ system has the potential to make a big difference in the fight against malaria in Ghana, Africa and around the world.
Malaria is a common and devastating problem in many parts of the world, especially in Africa. In Ghana, a country that has the same population as Texas, nearly 20,000 children die each year from malaria. Ghana is just one of many countries where malaria is endemic and many lives are unnecessarily lost to this preventable disease. Despite many advances, malaria is a problem that just won’t go away. But there’s hope.
The Boko Project focuses on the use of mosquito nets, which are a proven and cost effective malaria prevention tool. There are a lot of nets out there, and countries where malaria is widespread have achieved country-wide or “universal” bed net coverage. In Ghana, where it is common for up to four people sleep in one bed, more than 12 million bed nets have been distributed.
While universal bed net coverage is a great goal to achieve only half of the bed nets are actually used. This greatly reduces the effectiveness of the nets for preventing and eradicating malaria. What our research shows is that one of the main reasons people don’t use their bed nets is because the nets are way too hot and stuffy to sleep under. The issue is that mosquito bed nets act like a screen and, like the screens on your windows, air cannot fully circulate in and out of the nets.
The goal of the Boko Project is to help solve the problem of air circulation preventing people from using bed nets. Our team developed a fan and a light which are placed inside mosquito nets. Having air circulation and light inside the nets increases comfort and quality of life to the point that people use the nets more. And, if people are using it, in the case of our project, the rates of malaria go down and lives are saved.
Since many of the people at risk of malaria live in communities without electricity (almost 75 percent of Africa’s people live without access to electricity), it is important to have a way to power the fan and light consoles using “alternative” energy sources. The most economical way to do that is by using energy from the sun.
Each of the houses participating in the Bɔkɔɔ Project receive a solar system that includes a solar panel and battery to power the fan and lights that are placed inside the mosquito nets. We have discovered that for very little extra cost, we can also add LED lights for the house so that people can cook, read, and live in a house with a sufficient amount of light. Currently, many people who live where there is no electricity use candles or kerosene lamps for their lights.
The Meaning of “Bɔkɔɔ”
You might have been wondering what the “Bɔkɔɔ” in the Bɔkɔɔ Project is all about and why we chose this name for our project. “Bɔkɔɔ” is a word in Twi, the most widely spoken native language in Ghana. When someone asks you in Twi “how are you” one can answer “Bɔkɔɔ”, “I am cool”, which, like in English, is slang for “I am well”. We named this project the “Bɔkɔɔ” Project because we believe it will help people stay well and will do this by literally keeping them cool. We think this project will result in better lives and a better planet, one in which malaria eradication becomes a real possibility.
Next Steps- Project Scale Up
The next steps for the Bɔkɔɔ Project center around scale up and include developing and testing a Bɔkɔɔ Solar System business model that includes distribution, installation, maintenance and financing components. Such a model will build on several household solar system business models that have been successful in bringing solar systems to low-income households in East Africa and India.
Another aspect of the Bɔkɔɔ Project scale up includes conducting an a larger study to validate that the findings in this smaller study (105 households were involved in this study) are not an anomaly. Additionally the next study will test the use of the fan/lights with regards to net use and will also monitor malaria rates. This is important because bed net use rates are behavioral and rely on self-reporting whereas testing malaria rates using rapid malaria tests (RMTs) eliminate self-reporting. After the second study, if we get the results that we expect, we will mass-produce and mass distribute the Boko Bed Net Systems across Africa and Asia and other places where malaria is endemic.