What’s Going On Here?
Climate change could be increasing the spread of deadly malaria in West Africa. Each year, malaria causes the deaths of about 1 million people and affects up to 1 billion people in 109 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Climate change is causing malaria to spread to areas that were previously not affected due to their cooler climates and higher elevations.
What Does This Mean?
Research has shown that climate change is leading to changes in temperature and rainfall patterns, which affect mosquito populations. Fluctuations in climatic conditions such as temperature, rainfall patterns, and humidity significantly influence the life-span of mosquitoes, the development of malaria parasites, and malaria transmission. This can result in an increased risk of malaria transmission in areas where it was previously not a significant problem, such as in sub-Saharan Africa.
Why Should We Care?
Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease, yet it remains a major public health problem in many parts of the world, including West Africa. This has serious implications for the health and well-being of the affected communities, as well as for economic development in the region.
The vulnerable segments of society, including children, especially under the age of 5, pregnant women, and marginalised communities, are disproportionately affected by malaria. In West Africa, environmental challenges like deforestation, soil erosion, and desertification provide ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes and thereby increase the risk of malaria transmission. This is further exacerbated by the extreme weather events caused by climate change, such as floods and droughts.