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In Dhaka’s biggest slum, residents seek to get rid of zebra-striped mosquitoes

DHAKA: Throughout the year, millions of Dhaka residents have to deal with swarms of mosquitoes, trying in every way to protect themselves against their bites – lately also with zebra stripes.

Hot and humid, the sprawling capital of Bangladesh struggles with the presence of mosquitoes, not only due to the climate, but also to unplanned urbanization.

During the monsoon season, rainwater accumulates in neighborhoods, becoming a breeding ground for insects that are difficult to control and regularly causing epidemics.

Frankincense is traditionally used to repel mosquitoes, but this year a new method has partly eliminated it, at least in Karail, Dhaka’s largest slum, where residents say they are protected by zebra-print fabrics.

It started as a project by an advertising agency and a direct-to-home TV provider, which in late March supplied 10,000 homes in Karail with zebra curtains they called Mosblock.

“Our goal was to ensure uninterrupted entertainment for people while watching TV,” Mohammed Abul Khair Chowdhury, marketing manager at Beximco Communications Ltd., which owns the TV service, told Arab News.

“Now we are collecting additional data on the effectiveness rate of the curtains,” he said. “According to our initial findings, it worked.”

The curtains quickly gained popularity, and local businesses in the slum began to copy the idea and sell their own zebra fabrics.

Chameli Akter, a 24-year-old student from Karail who hung zebra curtains on her door and window, said there were far fewer mosquitoes in her home.

“I noticed that mosquitoes can’t fly near this curtain,” she told Arab News. “Mosquito control is a daily struggle because the environment here is mostly dirty and there are enough places for mosquitoes to breed. Now at least I’m a little relieved.

Shirin Begum, a 35-year-old domestic helper who also lives in Karail, has also noticed that with the zebra stripes on her windows, insects bother her family less. “My children couldn’t concentrate on their studies because of mosquito bites,” she said. “Now they can pay more attention to their studies.”

Numerous international studies in recent years have shown that black and white stripes protect zebras from insect bites.

Studies on flies have shown that the polarization of light impairs their perception, making them unable to properly decelerate and land on their victims.

Whether the same effect applies to mosquitoes has not yet been scientifically confirmed.

“We need more research on this,” said Muntasir Akash, an assistant professor in the department of zoology at the University of Dhaka. But he salutes the innovation: “In tropical regions, mosquitoes are very deadly. If a curtain like Mosblock can be an effective solution against mosquitoes, it will be very useful.

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