The Impact of Climate Change and Covid-19 on Malaria in SADC Countries
The changes in rainfall patterns occurring because of climate change are creating more breeding sites for mosquitoes, which can in turn is leading to more malaria infections.
Malaria is a major problem in most sub-Saharan countries, and the impact of climate change is making it worse. This, combined with funds diverted away to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, has seen the fight to prevent and eradicate malaria set back. It was hoped that the SADC countries would achieve eradication of malaria by 2030. This target seems unlikely now.
Malaria distribution in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region is extremely heterogeneous, with five – Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania – of the twenty-nine highest malaria burdened countries (found in the SADC region) contributing to 51% of malaria cases globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 75% of the population in the region is at risk of contracting malaria, including an estimated thirty-five million children under five years and approximately 8.5 million pregnant women.
A study published in The Lancet found that climate change could cause an additional five million cases of malaria by 2030. The study projected that rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns would create more suitable habitats for mosquitoes, leading to an increase in the number of malaria infections.
Higher temperatures combined with higher rainfall is leading to more mosquitoes, which in turn leads to more malaria transmissions. Already countries like Mozambique have seen that the combination of floods destroying houses, combined with elevated temperatures afterwards, has led to displacement of people, which can create opportunities for mosquitoes to bite people and spread malaria.
Extreme weather events and the impact of Covid-19 has disrupted health systems and malaria control programmes which has made it increasingly difficult for people to access life-saving malaria prevention and treatment services. However, control and elimination of malaria, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic remains critical for the health Southern Africa.
Inevitably this will have an impact of the productivity of those working in the mining, agriculture, and hospitality sectors as well as the communities close by.
Business, NGOs, government, and local communities need urgently to come together and step up their programmes by issuing more long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets (LLITBNs), reinstating Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS), and fogging in around areas where it is sometimes difficult to spray directly but which a mist containing small elements of insecticide can reach lying mosquitoes.
But what could be the jewel in the fight against growing levels on malaria because of climate change is the identification of standing and stagnant water areas and treating them with effective bio-degradable larvicides. Used in combination with the nets, IRS, and fogging, adding larvicide to stagnant and standing waters can reduce mosquito population by over 75%.
In every case there needs to be an integrated approach of surveying an area and its population, designing a relevant programme, training operators, supervised implementation of the programme and follow up monitoring. This will ensure that the step up in activity is effective.