Representatives from government, Green VI, and VectorStars, a Seattle-based non-profit organisation, signed a memorandum of understanding that acknowledges the possible expansion of a vector-control programme. (Photo: GIS)

Since late August,  officials in the Environmental Health Division have been working with Green VI staff to identify major mosquito breeding grounds in East End.

The partnership is the first step in a pilot programme that seeks to introduce to Tortola tactics that have dramatically reduced the number of mosquito breeding sites in Virgin Gorda, where the Bugout programme has proven successful due to a combination of education, community engagement, and the use of an app, according to Charlotte McDevitt, executive director of Green VI.

The East End pilot is still in its early stages, but its results will help determine the next stages of the programme, Ms. McDevitt said.

So far, she has been pleased with the work undertaken in Tortola, and with the partnership between government and Green VI.

“I’m really excited to see what’s happening on the ground,” she said. “It’s been great working with government on this … They’re phenomenal. They’re doing such a wonderful job.”

Though the pilot launched in August, government on Friday signed a memorandum of understanding with Green VI, which more officially acknowledged the ongoing collaboration, said Chief Environmental Health Officer Lionel Michael.

The MOU “gives the project more legitimacy,” Mr. Michael said.

Ms. McDevitt was similarly enthusiastic about the memorandum, which she believes is an important move in the right direction.

Bugout tactics

In recent weeks, environmental health officials have been learning how to respond to reports of breeding areas using the Bugout methods employed by Green VI, Ms. McDevitt said.

The use of technology is a cornerstone of the Bugout strategy, with staffers logging collected data on an app, she explained. The app compiles information from the field into an interactive map and a related tool that government workers have been learning to use.

“We’ve got almost a living map in Virgin Gorda that shows us where breeding hotspots are,” she said.

Community engagement is also central to Bugout’s work, which places an emphasis on education so as to empower residents to become self-reliant when it comes to vector control, Ms. McDevitt said.

“At the end of the day, we want the community to take control,” she explained.

Mr. Michael spoke similarly.

“We do believe that the significant component of community engagement is the single most effective measure of fighting [mosquito-borne diseases] in the BVI,” he said.

Next steps

Once the data collection portion of the pilot is complete, participants will begin to work on engaging the East End community by visiting schools and youth groups and going door-to-door to educate about Bugout’s methods, Ms. McDevitt said.

Additionally, Green VI and environmental health staff plan to conduct a survey designed to gauge the effectiveness of the programme.

This project is being funded in part by the Pan American Health Organisation and private donors, who Ms. McDevitt declined to identify.

VectorStars, a Seattle-based non-profit organisation that says it fights vector-borne diseases across the globe, is partnering with Green VI in the Bugout expansion, according to a government press release.

Michael Jooste, executive director of VectorStars, was present as government signed the MOU but declined to comment for this article