In 2015 alone, malaria claimed 395,000 lives on our continent according to records from the World Health Organization.
It is a disease which is especially deadly in children under five, elderly people and pregnant women, and it has always presented a huge challenge for Africans to actively tackle.
Part of the issue is that the mosquito which is responsible for spreading the parasite is very abundant in our environment.
Two students back in 2013 however provided us with an innovative, life-saving solution.
Moctar Dembélé from Burkina Faso and Gérard Niyondiko of Burundi made history after beating about 650 competitors from 40 countries to become the first Africans to win the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC).
Their winning idea was a malaria fighting soap which they invented making use of shea butter, citronella and other insect-repelling herbs sourced locally from Burkina Faso.
They named the malaria fighting soap, Faso Soap and gave their reason for choosing it as its provision of a way to protect a wide variety of people from the disease because soap is basically low cost and used by people from all backgrounds and as such requires no behavioral change.
Niyondiko explained to CNN;
“In our country the majority of the population lives below the poverty line, so we thought of a repellent and larvicidal mosquito soap which will be accessible and affordable to the majority of the population, seeing that soap is a commodity product and especially not going to add other additional costs to the population.”
The soap would basically leave an insect-repelling scent on the skin of the user, with the added benefit of any standing dirty water left after the bath (which would normally be a breeding ground for the insects) also driving them away.
After the competition, the Faso Soap team won $25,000 for the grand prize and another $1,500 for the Center’s People’s Choice Award. The product however still had some hoops to jump through in the form of clinical tests to prove its safety and effectiveness for public use.
Its been three years after the fact and today marks six days left in their crowdfunding campaign which was launched together with a Stanford graduate and a social entrepreneur and named “100,000 Lives”. The campaign was launched to cover the cost of the product testing and further development of the malaria fighting soap.
Dembele who was a keynote speaker for the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum discussed their journey in this video released by UNESCO;
Already supporters of the campaign have helped push it past its first milestone, but there remain two milestones left to scale in order to attain the projects most ambitious goal; a laboratory dedicated exclusively to Faso Soap research. The hope of the developers is to complete all the testing in time to introduce the soap to the market by 2018 and hopefully then Africans will have another answer to battling malaria.