When Hurricane Katrina tore into New Orleans in 2005 and the levees burst, the city flooded. Over 1,000 residents, most of them elderly, were desperate to escape rising waters and climbed into darkened attics where they were trapped and drowned. Later, when levees were repaired and the city pumped out, thousands of swimming pools remained full of sewage, storm water and debris. These unattended pools became ideal breeding grounds for swarms of hungry mosquitoes displaced from nearby bayous. Some of the mosquitoes carried West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis. Storm clouds of a looming epidemic gathered over the beleaguered city and even the CDC didn’t know how to stop it. It was then that Operation Blessing’s BUG BUSTERS program was born.
At the request of the City of New Orleans Mosquito Board, we sourced, raised and distributed hordes of tiny mosquito-eating fish called Gambusia. Working with the Mosquito Control team, our staff and volunteers planted mosquito fish in over 5,500 swimming pools. The hardworking fish wiped out the mosquitos breeding in the pools and the epidemic was stopped cold.
We are now faced with Zika, a far more widespread mosquito-caused crisis. Armed with lessons learned in New Orleans—we’ve launched Bug Busters II.
Zika is carried by Aedes aegypti, a particular type of tiny mosquito that lives in and around the homes of the poor. OBI teams in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti are working to help vulnerable villagers by providing bed nets, covers for water containers and tiny fish to gobble mosquito larvae and disrupt their life cycle.
It is always the poor who are most vulnerable. Most of us are blessed and live in air-conditioned homes with screens on our windows, but our neighbors in Latin America languish at the mercy of diseased mosquitoes. Please help us help more of them by joining the fight against Zika.