Experts have warned that Sub-Saharan Africa is likely to see a surge in malaria cases due to climate change.
In a study published in the Malaria Journal, experts warn that by 2080, the burden of malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa would almost double unless socio-economic interventions are taken to mitigate impact of changes in temperature and rainfall patterns.
Solomon Kibret of the University of California, the lead author of the study, noted that some areas that may not currently have the disease would also turn into transmission zones as a result of climate change.
“Increase in temperature and changing rainfall patterns in Sub-Saharan region would result in widespread increase in malaria transmission. Since rainfall determines the availability of breeding habitat for mosquito vectors, temperature determines the time taken for development of larval mosquitoes, their lifespan and the rate of blood feeding of adult vectors,” he said.
Also the total area suitable for stable malaria transmission is expected to expand from 7 million sq km in 2010 to 9–11 million sq km in the 2080s, according to the report.
The report further warns that close to 3.1 million people are at risk of malaria due to dams in Sub-Saharan and 1.1 million cases of malaria are associated with 1268 large dams in the region, every year.
The population at risk of malaria around existing dams and associated reservoirs, is estimated to increase from 15 million in 2010 to 21–23 million in the 2020s, 25–26 million in the 2050s and 28–29 million in the 2080s.
Similarly, the number of malaria cases associated with dams in the endemic areas is expected to increase from 1.1 million to 1.2–1.6 million in the 2020s, 2.1–3.0 million in the 2050s and 2.4–3.0 million in the 2080s.
A global concern
Malaria kills around 400,000 people a year, with majority of them being children in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Health Organisation, around 200 million malaria cases are registered globally on an annual basis.
This life threatening disease is transmitted through the bites of an infected female anopheles mosquito mainly in tropical and subtropical areas. Only congenital malaria is passed on from the mother to the baby.
Anopheles mosquitoes can be controlled but the problem is exacerbated by presence of stagnant, water tall bushes and climate change.
Dr Aimable Mbituyumuremyi, the head of malaria and other parasitic infections unit at Rwanda Biomedical Centre explained that areas around dams are more susceptible because of more favourable conditions.
“Dams are used for cattle and also for purposes of farming such as irrigation. With this water, the rate of malaria cases rises due to increased mosquito breeding. In Rwanda these cases are high in the Eastern province and places where people grow rice because of these dams,” he explained.
He reiterated that with climate change malaria cases around dams are likely to increase due to warm weather.
“Besides water, warmth is needed especially for the laid mosquito eggs to hatch into larvae,” added Dr Mbituyumuremyi.
Despite the shock malaria resurgence that occurred last year, Rwanda efforts in fighting malaria have for long combined; indoor residual spraying, clearing of stagnant water and use of insecticide treated bed nets.
The country also recently joined a new roadmap that was endorsed by African leaders to eliminate malaria by 2030 across the continent.