Rosalia Nghitalasheni Joseph said being born in a malaria-prone area and being raised in another one that is prone to infesting insects made her want to tackle the issue head-on by studying entomology to find a cure and be a catalyst in eliminating malaria.
Entomology is the study of insects and their relationship to humans, the environment, and other organisms. Entomologists make great contributions to such diverse fields as agriculture, chemistry, biology, human/animal health, molecular science, criminology, and forensics.
The 26-year-old researcher is said to be the first female entomologist in the country. Joseph is a researcher under the multi-disciplinary research centre of the University of Namibia (Unam) and a member of the Biomedical Lab at the same institution.
Born in Etomba in the Ohangwena region and raised in Okahandja, Joseph said being exposed to these two areas made her pursue a career in the field.
“I have always had a passion for scientific research, more specifically how medicinal science helps people’s lives,” shared Joseph.
She added: “I was born in a place where malaria is severe and a burden and raised in another area where malaria is endemic as well and this motivated me to pursue my studies in medical entomology because the study of insects serves as the basis for the control of diseases such as malaria and the development of medicines and insecticides with the hope that the research will contribute to curbing the burden imposed by malaria in Namibia.”
Joseph has a Masters in Medical Entomology, a programme she went through with the partnership with Unam, University of California, San Francisco and the Ministry of Health and Social Services of Namibia.
Her research was centred on vector control, which is preventing the contact between human beings and mosquitos, to create a barrier for mosquitos to not transmit the parasite to humans and vector control is the first line of defence against malaria transmission.
She felt complied to look at an aspect that contributed to strengthening vector control intervention in Namibia.
Vector control is any method to limit or eradicate the mammals, birds, insects or other arthropods that transmit disease pathogens. The most frequent type of vector control is mosquito control using a variety of strategies.
She said it is very important for research institutions and those whose research is being done to take recommendations seriously, as they might not only benefit the institution in question but also the country at large.
“My research is being taken seriously and being implemented. The cases of malaria have declined since 2017 and this is because the health ministry is doing an exceptional job at combating the malaria challenge with minimal resources, especially while tackling other challenges such as Covid-19,” stated Joseph.
Former health minister Dr Richard Kamwi said Joseph’s breakthrough and work are worth commenting on because the available data states that malaria is killing more than Covid-19.
Kamwi is the ambassador of the Elimination Eight Initiative (E8), a coalition of eight countries working across national borders to eliminate malaria in southern Africa by 2030. These countries are Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, eSwatini and Mozambique.
“Both in terms of morbidity and mortality, more people are dying and suffering from malaria than any other disease in sub-Saharan Africa. Annually, malaria is killing more than 1, 2 million and of the toll, a million in sub-Saharan and that includes Namibia,” stated Kamwi.
He added that Namibia has the necessary tools that can prevent a malaria outbreak. “What’s more painful is that it is killing the most vulnerable groups of our society, the under-five-year-olds and expecting mothers. It is for me a scandal,” expressed Kamwi.
He said the line ministry with WHO knows the recommended chemicals and once coverage has reached 90%, there is an assurance that the population will be safe and the chemical being used is susceptible to the vector.
He concluded that Joseph’s work is vital and more is needed. “In an area like Namibia, we need more than 10 entomologists, at least every region, every malaria-prone region, there must be a medical entomologist,” concluded Kamwi.