By Gladys Kalibbala
ENVIRONMENTAL Impact assessment exercises are being organised for aerial insecticide spraying next year.
According to Fredrick Luyimbazi, the project entomologist of the Pan African Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Campaign (PATTEC), officials from Orsmond Aviation, a firm based in South Africa, recently visited Kalangala Islands to make assessments.
The firm has previously sprayed infested areas in Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. It has managed to eradicate the tsetse flies using a chemical known as pyrethroids.
The same chemical will be applied in infested areas in Uganda. â€œThis insecticide is residual and bio degradable so it has no effect on the environment. The exercise will be performed by experienced pilots who use computerised planes,â€ Luyimbazi explained.
A team of Orsmond Aviation officials was in Kalangala recently to study the vegetation and see how and where they can establish a base in order to spray 11,000sqkm in the first phase.
Kimaka Airstrip in Jinja has been identified as a viable base. The first phase funded by the African Development Bank (ADB) will cover districts in the Lake Victoria Basin which include Rakai, Kalangala, Masaka, Kampala, Mukono, Luweero, Mpigi, Wakiso, Jinja, Bugiri, Busia, Iganga, Tororo, Palisa, Kamuli and Mayuge.
The Kalangala district entomologist, Betty Mukasa, explained that the spraying in Kalangala is long overdue.
The area is heavily infested with tsetse flies. There is no district budget to support the control of tsetse flies in the area.
â€œIn places like Lutoboka, we often catch over 400 tsetse flies in one trap,â€ she says. Mukasa says because of the poor funding the traps are not enough to cover all the infested areas on the island.
According to Lawrence Semakula, the director at the Coordinating Office for Control of Trypanosomiasis (COCTU), the exercise will be done at night five times in each area.
He said sleeping sickness and nagana spread from Busoga to Kampala and Arua. Currently tsetse flies are estimated to be present in about 70% of the countryâ€™s land surface.
Dr Nicholas Kauta, the commissioner for livestock health and entomology at the agriculture ministry, says people should not fear that they will contract sleeping sickness because of eating meat of an infected animal.
The disease is spread by a tsetse fly bite. He says many have died from the disease claiming it is witchcraft.
Sleeping sickness caused by the trypanosome parasite and transmitted through the bite of a tsetse fly is endemic in southeast Uganda.
Soroti is known to have the highest number of sleeping sickness cases at 419, Kamuli has 318 cases, Iganga has 283 and Kaberamaido has 249.
Kauta says the disease, which is transmitted back and forth between human beings and livestock, is increasingly becoming resistant to the available drugs while pharmaceuticals show no interest in developing new ones.
Dr Abbas Kakembo of the Vector Control Division at the Ministry of Health explains that the early stages of sleeping sickness cause the patient to get fever, headache, joint pains, itching, enlarged lymph nodes and a patient becomes anaemic.
All cases have to be hospitalised and treatment lasts between 10 to 30 days. He, however, says treatment is very expensive, at approximately sh60,000 for each patient.
Health experts have shown fear of the possible merger of the Rhodesiense tsetse flies of northern Uganda with the Gambience of southern Uganda.
They say Uganda is the only country in Africa with both forms of the disease. Dr Stephen Malinga, the health minister, says about 5-10% of the victims may end up with mental illness.
The mental state may be a result of the disease or the drugs, which, he says are extremely toxic.