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Progress in Battling Tsetse Flies in Ethiopia

Director General Yukiya Amano attends the opening of the Ethiopian Exhibit at the IAEA's 57th Annual General Conference. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

It's been 16 years of hard, sometimes discouraging work to reduce the population of tsetse flies in Ethiopia's Southern Rift Valley. But now the investment of time and resources has begun to benefit the rural communities affected by the diseases this insect pest transmits.

The IAEA and the Ethiopian Government have been working in tandem to suppress the insect. The suppression program has significantly reduced the incidence of the tsetse-transmitted animal disease trypanosomosis in the 25 000 km2 project area in the Southern Rift Valley.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) describes trypanosomosis as a progressive wasting disease accompanied by increasing anaemia and weakness, eventually leading to extreme emaciation, collapse and livestock death, often due to heart failure.

The presence of trypanosomosis and tsetse flies makes large swathes of fertile land across the African continent unsuitable for intensive agricultural development, stymying individual and national economic growth. The Ethiopian-IAEA eradication project aims to create an area where sustainable agricultural production is possible. Once this approach is transferred to other tsetse-infested valleys, it will contribute significantly to ensuring food security and rural development in the country.

At the opening of the Ethiopian exhibit at the IAEA's 57th Annual General Conference in Vienna, Austria, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said the population of Ethiopia will enjoy a better life with the eradication of the tsetse fly.

From the beginning of the project, the IAEA has provided technical, financial, material and intellectual support. The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), which the Director General called "birth control for harmful insects", is the final component being used to secure total tsetse eradication following a long and arduous suppression fight using insecticide-based techniques.

SIT involves rearing male flies in mass quantities, sexually sterilizing them with radiation, and then releasing them into the wild to mate with wild females. Their mating produces no offspring, thereby suppressing the fly population. Ethiopia has established, with support from the IAEA, the largest tsetse fly mass rearing facility in the world.

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Last update: 20 Sep 2017

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