Climate Change: Changing Patterns of Malaria

Introduction

Human activities have increasingly led to global warming due to the greenhouse gas emissions and other factors. Human existence is highly dependent on the changes in environmental patterns, which translates into the transmission of vector-borne diseases such as malaria across central and southern Africa. Climatic changes due to greenhouse gas emissions are expected to alter temperature, rain patterns, and air contents, thus posing human health consequences across Africa (Adeboyejo, Matamale and Kharidza 2012).

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Central and southern Africa regions have higher numbers of populations exposed to climate change effects as compared to other parts of the developed and developing world. The majorities of human health complications associated with climate change mainly occur due to bad policing and poor planning to cope with the changing climate conditions.

Greenhouse gas emissions are expected to raise the global temperatures from 1.30C to above 2.1 0C by 2050 if the burning of fossil fuels, which produce carbon dioxide, is not regulated (Adeboyejo, Matamale and Kharidza 2012). This paper will focus at analyzing the impacts of climate change and the corresponding effects on human health particularly with the case of malaria in Central and Southern Africa. This paper will show that within Central and Southern Africa, malaria outbreak is mainly influenced by the dynamics of climate change.

This paper will generate and analyze information from previous peer reviewed studies as well as engaging the current debates on this topic. The paper will engage scientific ideas and information from ProQuest database. In addition, the paper will conclude by discussing the gaps in knowledge on the effects of climate variations and the dangers that will be posed to the health of Central and Southern Africa population. Due to the enormous volume of literature on this topic, the selection of information is focused on thee articles that add to the interdisciplinary knowledge as well as giving guidelines to policy makers.

Literature review

This review compiles current studies from environmental studies, economic, and political reviews and health surveys to generate information addressing how climate change influences the trends in malaria outbreak in Central and South Africa. This review incorporates the work of the International Research Institute for Climate Change and Society (IRI) towards the establishment of awareness of climate factors for the health departments in Central and Southern Africa. This paper also uses secondary sources such as peer-reviewed materials mainly sourced from ProQuest.

Scientific findings have generated evidence linking climate change and malaria transmission in Central and Southern Africa. Current as well as continued global heating could mean a huge rise in malaria cases in highly polluted areas across Africa. Malaria infects millions of people annually, especially during the hot season where Plasmodium falciparum parasites and mosquitos thrive (Cullen 2011), thus transmitting malaria to huge sections of the African populations.

High temperatures favor reproduction of the parasite and the rate at which mosquitos bite. The World Health Organization (WHO) shows that about 219 million people were infected with malaria in 2010, with about 660,000 reported to die and the majority being from Central and Southern Africa (Wickremasinghe, Wickremasinghe and Fernando 2010). Related studies show that economic and political factors have contributed to the vast spread and intensity of malaria in Africa due to poor policies to counter the intruding danger of potential climate changes.

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The economic costs of treating malaria are higher as compared to the costs of containing climate change and avoiding malaria cases related to climate change. The environmental factors that facilitate vector-borne diseases such as malaria include rise in sea level, humidity levels, temperature, and precipitation (Tanser, Sharp and le Sueur 1972). These climatic changes determine the reproduction frequency and adaptation to survival of the vectors, the level of action of the vector, and the speed of growth and reproduction of the plasmodium pathogen within the vector (Tonnang, Tchouassi, Juarez, Igweta and Djouaka 2014)

Just as the other parts of the world, Africa is expected to experience the effects of global warming. The industrial emissions by the developing countries of Central and Southern Africa as well as the developed industrialized countries are currently burning high amounts of fossil fuels, which enter the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has led to global warming. Consequently, the rise in temperature in central and southern Africa has led to a rise in Plasmodium falciparum [the parasite that causes malaria] and the thriving of the anopheles mosquitos [the insect that transmits malaria]. The most affected regions include the poor populations, which are unable to create preventive measures. The governments have also done very little to moderate the dynamics in climate change around central and southern Africa.

The adaptive measures by the dry regions to create dams and irrigation schemes have led to the increase of malaria cases, since the mosquitos create breeding zones around the dams and irrigation zones. However, a shift in adaptation by the disease-transmitting vectors is possible as they redistribute to different regions (Townsend 2009). The African cooler regions experience malaria epidemics due to the vectors relocating to adapt cooler habits. The vectors also develop evolutionary response to adjust to varying temperatures (Tanser, Sharp and le Sueur 1972).

In addition, the capacity by the sea to absorb atmospheric gas is narrowing with the excessive emissions of carbon dioxide. The atmospheric cycle is releasing excess carbon, which leads to the glaciations of the ice sheets, thus leading to a rise in seawaters. This aspect translates into an increase in global heating, which favors plasmodium larval reproduction and the survival of adult mosquitoes (Cullen 2011). The rise in water surface provides breeding sites for mosquitoes, thus resulting in the prevalence of malaria along the African coastline. When mosquitoes are not controlled at early stages of development, they develop adaptive mechanisms to diverse climate conditions, hence increasing survival chances.

Large areas of central and southern Africa experience equatorial and tropical climate, which is favorable for vector-borne diseases with malaria being the most prevalent one (Arab, Jackson and Kongoli 2014). Tropical climate has been affected by the trends of climate change, thus altering rainfall patterns. Today, most African regions experience prolonged drought seasons and extreme floods due to unpredictable climate changes. According to a study by Adeboyejo, Matamale, and Kharidza (2012), epidemic malaria outbreaks are connected to high rainfall in the arid and semi-arid areas and the rise in temperatures in cool zones.

In addition, little rainfall can result in vector-borne diseases. Increased moisture and logged water surfaces serve as breeding areas for mosquitoes and the hot temperature enhance the reproduction of vector coupled with prolonged existence of the mature mosquitoes. Heavy rainfalls provide larval hiding grounds and rise in the vector population due to the presence of new habitats. Low rainfall results in rivers drying with water forming pools where mosquitos breed. Moreover, low rainfall compels people to introduce container rainwater catchments, which serve as breeding areas for mosquitoes. Increased soil moisture and humidity facilitate vector survival.

Demographic and socio-economic factors also influence the spread of malaria in central and southern Africa. The densely populated regions of Africa are likely to facilitate the spread of malaria. The densely populated areas also report the high rates of deaths from malaria. Vector-borne diseases flourish at populated areas since they have many hiding and breeding zones (Arab, Jackson and Kongoli 2014). The poor countries are the earliest to be hit and severe outcomes such as physical impairments or deaths are reported.

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For instance, Botswana reports more annual malaria cases as compared to South Africa, which highly developed in terms of malaria control systems and awareness (Wickremasinghe, Wickremasinghe and Fernando 2010) Due to food security measures, central and southern Africa states have embarked on dam construction to facilitate irrigation. Communities living around the dams and irrigation schemes report high cases of malaria especially amongst children, as they have weak immunity (Snow, Craig, Deichmann and Marsh 1999).

Central and southern Africa populations have largely increased leading to the creation of new settlements. Human activities to expand settlements have led to a massive destruction of forests. This aspect results in atmospheric imbalance due to the reduced number of vegetative cover to take in carbon dioxide. Forest destruction has led to a rise in temperatures, hence creating favorable conditions for mosquitoes’ survival.

The new settlements serve as breeding zones for mosquitoes, thus amounting to serious consequences on malaria transmission. Human migration to these new locations might also spread malaria by infected people, thus creating new malaria epidemic zones. Increasing poverty and improper land use are major challenges since the government may need time to address these issues due to insufficiency of funds (Volker, Fink, Morse and Paeth 2012).

Current state of knowledge

The purpose of the current study is to determine the dangers that malaria might cause with immediate and future climate variations. Adeboyejo, Matamale, and Kharidza (2012) maintain that epidemics of malaria in central and southern Africa stand out as a major public health concerns in both dry hot areas and highlands. The IRI has helped to link professionals in climate change and medical sector, thus helping to understand the corresponding effects of climate change to malaria outbreak.

However, with most countries in this region experiencing common climate variations, this information can help researchers to identify areas of common urgency by creating an opportunity for policymakers to join forces to mitigate this problem. Present attention has been shifted to global warming and effects of climate change at the international level. African leaders have shifted their focus on global affairs, thus forgetting that a small change in climate change has bigger implication on health of African populations as compared to other developing nations.

Limitations

Gaps in knowledge and research on climate change and its implication on malaria prevalence still exist despite the huge volumes of research findings. In a bid to mitigate the problem of malaria in central and southern Africa, researchers have done limited studies, and thus most of the climate change effects regarding malaria transmission have not been exhausted and understood. Snow et al. (1999) hold that a lot might appear to have been done to understand the dynamics of climate change, but there still exist many undiscovered realities with potential implications to human health.

The unexplored information includes climate change uncertainties, as the international global surveys on global warming do not provide definite figures on the expected rise in global temperatures. Only estimates are available since the rate at which industries burn fossil fuels is changing with the demand of the products as well as due to the loose policies on the carbon tax. This aspect has led to complexities in predicting future climate variations in rainfall, winds, trends in the sea levels, and temperature.

This trend makes it difficult to determine the connections between climate change and malaria epidemics. Limited technology and skills in central and southern Africa have resulted in insufficient and at times inaccurate findings in climate and malaria linkages. Health specialists and climate experts have failed to integrate insightful ideas in order to generate a comprehensive solution to counter the problem of malaria cases occasioned by climate change.

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Vector species have adapted to the equatorial and tropical climate of central and southern Africa, thus making their survival flourish in both humid and dry zones (Volker, Fink, Morse and Paeth 2012). As the atmospheric conditions change, the distribution of these vectors adjusts to cope with the new environs. Therefore, this realization means that research work on malaria and climate changes need to be created with time coupled with the generation of new models in a bid to ensure that the available data is updated occasionally. Predicting future changes using the current models is challenging and accurate information may not be obtained due to future changes in vector distribution associated to the changing climate.

Mitigation measures on climate change and health

Central and southern African regions’ response to the impacts of malaria linked to climate change has shown recommendable efforts since the last decade. Given that the possibility to address malaria impacts from climate change lies within the mandate of the African leaders, they should be encouraged to invest in financial resources to avail the suitable technology to improve accuracy in climate change predictions in an effort to curb malaria epidemics.

The IRI has also provided knowledge on understanding and mapping populations, which are highly exposed to malaria coupled with providing pre-warning systems on climate change. The IRI also keeps in touch with the WHO in Africa to facilitate the global sponsoring initiatives by the Global Malaria Program (GMP) (Arab, Jackson and Kongoli 2014). The following proposals give simple guidelines to mitigating the aforementioned problem and serve as a baseline for future research. Much of this information has been reviewed in many African forums on health and climate change, but very few have been enforced in the short run with most being abandoned later on.

Since the available information indicates that malaria is largely subject to climate change, central and southern Africa states should join forces and improve infrastructure to alleviate the damage that malaria has caused together with potential future cases. Since malaria is reported as the most deadly disease amongst infants in this region, the provision of anti-malarial drugs and preventive facilities such as treated mosquito nets should be facilitated as preliminary measures. In addition, large-scale spraying should be done across the region where mosquitoes breed.

Sufficient and modern clinics with skilled healthcare providers integrating environmental science with clinical science should be provided in the affected regions (Tanser, Sharp and le Sueur 1972). Since climate change and malaria transmission is a phenomenon of the past generations, central and southern African governments should be willing to borrow ideas and knowledge on how to deal with the epidemic from the developed countries like the United States. Researchers in Africa have borrowed models in the quest to learn patterns of climate change and malaria distribution trends from developed countries. Consistent results and recommendations have been tabulated, but the policymakers have shied from implementing the findings, by giving mere excuses such as lack of funds.

Improved research on incorporating current technology should be established to provide accurate findings and predictions on climate change and expected trends in malaria outbreaks. Poor policies and lack of relevant reforms have seen less budgetary allocations of funds by governments, thus crippling efforts to mitigate malaria control in central and southern Africa (Paaijmans, Read, Matthew and Burton 2009). Reforms should be made on climate change policies to match the current concerns of climate change especially on carbon emissions.

Central and southern African governments should focus on putting incentives to reduce industrial emissions by creating carbon tax program together with joining forces with the international community to establish long-term solutions to global warming. By doing this, Africa will be in a good position to deal with the short-term causes of malaria such as economic and social factors.

Political relevance on climate change with respect to malaria prevalence has been minimal in central and southern Africa. As highlighted in this paper, climate variations and malaria outbreak form a joint and complex issue, which requires active involvement of all stakeholders. Paaijmans et al. (2009) posit that political actors seeking to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa should first understand that such goals could only be achieved if the continent is successful in establishing effective malaria control systems.

Political action should be taken to reform the climate change policies and create incentives to reduce global warming. By doing this, the African continent will gradually be moving towards containing malaria, which means that death rate from malaria epidemic can be halved within a decade with a common political will, technology, funding, and commitment. The World Health Organization’s rollback malaria campaign can attain its objective to reduce malaria-related deaths. Governments in this region should sensitize the population on malaria control measures and advocate for community capacity building to enable people to understand climate change trends and their influence on malaria outbreaks (Tonnang et al. 2014).

In a bid to attain the desired change in central and southern Africa, the local communities should be involved. Most governments in this region have overlooked the issue of engaging society in policy decision-making. Although studies involve gathering information from society, governments across the region should adopt this data in policy implementation by factoring in public opinion on the directives that they make. However, since climate change is not a threat that can be eliminated, policy makers should not enforce short-term remedies; on the contrary, they should establish permanent structures (Townsend 2009). Central and southern African states concentrate on short-lived measures such as spraying insecticides to kill mosquitoes and temporary clinics in areas heavily infected with malaria.

Conclusion

This paper has reviewed numerous research articles, which have consistently confirmed that climate change has indeed contributed to malaria increase in central and southern African regions. The changes in temperature, precipitation patterns, sea level, and soil moisture have been identified as the basic components of climate change influencing malaria trends in the region.

Current and future studies should build on the existing research to cover the gaps of knowledge being created by the emerging trends in vector adaptation and the increasingly unpredictable climate change due to global warming. However, in a bid t to eradicate the problem of malaria in the region, social, economic, political, and demographic factors should not be sidelined, since they are the short-term contributors of malaria with climate change affecting the long-term aspects.

Therefore, despite the steps made in research, few documented data is available, and thus multivariate analysis interlinking climate change and malaria has been limited. This aspect makes it difficult to establish the extent to which changes in malaria intensity are attributable to climate change and at what seasons of the year. Advocacy and commitment by all stakeholders including the public, private, and non-governmental organizations should focus on achieving a world free of malaria.

References

Adeboyejo, Thompson, Lirvhuwani Matamale, and Shonisani Kharidza. 2012. “Impact of Climate Change on Children’s Health in Limpopo Province, South Africa.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 9 (1): 831-54.

Arab, Ali, Monica Jackson, and Cezar Kongoli. 2014. “Modelling the effects of weather and climate on malaria distributions in West Africa.” Malaria Journal 13 (126): 1-9.

Cullen, Elizabeth. 2011. “Malaria and climate change.” Irish Medical Times 45 (14): 32-33.

Paaijmans, Krijn, Andrew Read, Thomas Matthew, and Singer Burton. 2009.

“Understanding the link between malaria risk and climate.” Journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106 (33): 13844-48.

Snow, Robert, Maria Craig, Ute Deichmann, and Kevin Marsh. 1999. “Estimating Mortality, Morbidity, and Disability due to Malaria among Africa’s Non-Pregnant Population.” Bulletin of the World Health Organization 77 (8): 624-40.

Tanser, Frank, Brian Sharp, and David le Sueur. 2003. “Potential effect of climate change on malaria Transmission in Africa.” The Lancet 362 (9398): 1792-1798.

Tonnang, Henri, David Tchouassi, Henry Juarez, Lilian Igweta, and Rousseau Djouaka. 2014. “Zoom in at African country level: potential climate induced changes in areas of suitability for survival of malaria vectors.” International Journal of Health Geographics 13 (12): 1-14.

Townsend, Peterson. 2009. “Shifting suitability for malaria vectors across Africa with warming climates.” BMC Infectious Diseases 9 (1): 1-6.

Volker, Ermert, Andreas Fink, Andrew Morse, and Heiko Paeth. 2012. “The Impact of Regional Climate Change on Malaria Risk due to greenhouse forcing and land use changes in tropical Africa.” Environmental Health Perspectives 120 (1): 77-84.

Wickremasinghe, Renu, Ananda Wickremasinghe, and Sumadhya Fernando. 2010. “Climate change and malaria: a complex relationship.” UN Chronicle 47 (2): 21-23.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, February 14). Climate Change: Changing Patterns of Malaria. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/climate-change-changing-patterns-of-malaria/

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