Acumen Blog

DART - from vestergaard frandsen

World Malaria Day 2012: The Next Generation of Anti-Malarial Efforts

In honor of World Malaria Day, we wanted to shine a spotlight on one of our investees working on malaria control. Malaria remains a life-threatening disease, still taking the lives of approximately 655,000 people a year, mostly African children. In 2009, Acumen Fund made an investment in Durable Activated Residual Textiles (DART), which is developing an insecticide-treated wall lining for the interior of homes. This innovation in malaria prevention is currently being tested for application across multiple malaria infected regions, including Kenya and Liberia.

The success of durable wall-lining has been striking and shows great promise. When used as a complement to insecticide treated mosquito nets and in place of Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS), these wall linings have been proven to reduce the number of mosquitoes throughout thousands of homes in western Kenya and reduce incidence of malaria.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, malaria prevalence in Kenyan homes that used a combination of nets and wall lining was a lower rate of 61% in the following six months, compared to 70% in those homes that received nets alone.

However, the benefits of this new approach go beyond increased protection. Lasting for 4 to 5 years, durable wall linings provide additional security for those who do not regularly sleep under bed nets, or for the many customers who improperly use them. Durable wall-lining installation may be considerably more cost-effective too, not requiring skilled labor for spraying houses once (or more) a year. Even from a practical perspective, it would be more appealing to put up aesthetically-pleasing wallpaper once every five years compared to having your possessions taken out of your house for it to be sprayed. And let’s not underestimate the importance of a product that is aesthetically-pleasing; to people living in houses built with brown clay, mud and sticks, having beautified interior decorating makes as much a difference in a malaria prevention product as the actual effectiveness against malaria itself.

What makes DART’s innovation so powerful and widely appealing for customers is that it combines the best from traditional bed nets and the best from IRS, while addressing the downsides of both: compared to IRS, durable wall-lining requires significantly less skilled labor and lasts four times as long, and unlike bed nets it does not require any major change in customer behavior.

To help develop the next generation of malaria prevention, DART is working with global public health organizations to address the sector-wide insecticide resistance challenges facing malaria prevention approaches around the world. DART was created in 2009 through a joint venture with Acumen Fund, the global malaria expert and social entrepreneur, Richard Allan and Vestergaard Frandsen, a pioneering European firm that specializes in developing emergency response and disease control products.

For the millions of people living in malaria endemic areas, innovations such as this wall lining and the possibility of a new class of effective insecticides have the potential to transform their lives. This unique joint venture, which brings together a variety of stakeholders to produce an innovative and high quality product, will result in improvements in their health outcomes and the many benefits that improved health can bring.

Vinay Nair represents Acumen Fund on DART’s Board of Directors.

Elizabeth Patella is a Communications Manager at Acumen Fund

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