How climate change is driving malaria to new territories, by Global Fund
Warns of increasing resistance to insecticides, existing treatments
Ahead of World Malaria Day (WMD), the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria, yesterday, warned that the epidemiology of malaria, a disease that kills one child every minute, is shifting, making it more difficult to predict, prevent and control outbreaks.
The Global Fund also raised the alarm that climate change is not the only challenge, but the world is also encountering increasing resistance of malaria-carrying mosquitos to existing pyrethroid-based insecticides and increasing resistance of malaria parasites to existing artemisinin-based treatments.
It said while there are effective alternatives, such as dual active ingredient mosquito nets, these are more costly.
Executive Director of the Global Fund, Peter Sands, said in an ever warmer, wetter and more populated world, and combined with a chronic lack of investment, climate change is turning malaria into one of the most acute global health threats.
Sands said warmer temperatures will likely lead to the expansion by thousands of kilometres of regions in which malaria-spreading mosquitos thrive. “Already, we are seeing malaria cases at higher altitudes in countries like Ethiopia and Kenya, where up to now low temperatures offered protection from mosquitoes,” he said.
Sands said: “We are also seeing shifts in where the various types of malaria-spreading mosquitoes occur. For example, Anopheles stephensi, found largely in Asia, has now been identified in the Horn of Africa and is spreading to East and West Africa. The stephensi species adapts more easily to urban conditions than most mosquitos, and unlike other anopheles species that are currently prevalent in Africa, can carry several types of malaria parasites, namely Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. This means that malaria control programmes in certain countries in Africa now have to contend with both a new mosquito type and a new malaria parasite.”
He said climate disasters, such as last year’s devastating floods in Pakistan, are a driving force for malaria outbreaks, as stagnant water creates breeding space for mosquitoes.
The Global Fund chief said despite massive efforts, including additional emergency funding from Global Fund, more than 1.6 million malaria cases were reported since the floods in Pakistan, against 400,000 cases the year before. He said countries, like Malawi and Mozambique, hit by Cyclone Freddy a few weeks ago, are currently facing the same challenge.
Sands said the growing resistance of mosquitoes to the most common insecticide and the malaria parasite’s ability to escape common malaria diagnostic rapid tests and resist common drugs also hampers the fight against malaria.
He added: “Several innovations that meet those challenges have been trialed in the past few years and are ready to scale up in all countries where they are needed. Equally, there exist strategies for boosting the resilience of health and community systems to climate change and climate disasters. But to roll these out, much more investment is needed.”