Features: Tsetse

Campaign Launched to Eliminate Tsetse Fly, which has Turned Much of Africa into a Green Desert

A new campaign to control the deadly tsetse fly in Africa, parasitic carrier of sleeping sickness, has been launched by the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Tsetse flies

African sleeping sickness affects as many as 500,000 people, 80 percent of whom eventually die, and the bite of the fly causes more than $4 billion in economic losses annually.

The tsetse fly has turned much of the fertile African landscape into an uninhabited "green desert," spreading sleeping sickness -- and killing 3 million livestock animals every year. The fly is the carrier of the single cell parasite, trypanosome, which attacks the blood and nervous system of its victims, causing sleeping sickness in humans and nagana in livestock. The biting tsetse fly transmits it when its seeks a blood meal.

Despite various drastic efforts over the past 100 years to eradicate the tsetse fly, most of the time it has recovered. The tsetse, about the size of a house fly, infests 37 sub-Saharan African countries -- 32 of them among the 42 most Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) in the world. Much of Africa's best land -- particularly in river valleys and moist areas, where the potential for mixed farming is good -- lies uncultivated, while tsetse free areas face collapse from overuse by humans.