Climate change: An ideal breeding ground for malaria

Climate change, characterized by heavy rains and an increase in temperatures, set to trigger malaria infections across the globe.
Spike in malaria cases reported.(Photo: Freepik)

Climate change could pose huge obstacles in the fight against malaria given heavy rains and high temperatures – perfect conditions for the deadly disease to flourish.

An article in the United Nations’ UN Chronicle, titled ‘Climate Change on Malaria – Complex Relationship‘, malaria kills approximately one million people. It also affect as many as one billion people in 109 countries throughout Africa and Latin America.

An increase in temperature, rainfall, and humidity may cause a proliferation of the malaria-carrying mosquitoes at higher altitudes. This may result in an increase in transmission in areas in which it wasn’t reported before.

The township of Mankweng in the Capricorn District in Limpopo, experienced flooding recently which could have a negative impact. Malaria-carrying parasites flock to such areas as breeding grounds.

Rainy December feared

Erick Mabunda from the Malaria Institute in Limpopo, fears December might be the toughest month yet.

“With the recent rains we might have lot of cases coming up. We expected October to be our worst month but luckily we could navigate around that. We are expecting our cases to increase in December, not now,” said Mabunda. 

“The problem arises when it rains and stops for two weeks. This gives the mosquitoes time to breed so if it can rain non-stop, we won’t experience many malaria cases. The concern is that we will have more breeding sites for mosquitoes which poses challenges in the future.” 

The Limpopo Department of Health confirmed that Vhembe and Mopani had 406 cases throughout their districts and recorded two deaths. However, Mabunda  said the numbers are still considerably low.

 “So far, we can’t press a panic button because we haven’t yet crossed the alert line for us to react. The umbers are still normal,” he explained. 

Last season (2020/2021), the province recorded 3 461 cases with at least 19 deaths.

We classify areas in our province according to their needs. In the Mopani and Vhembe Districts, we do a lot of spraying. Education and awareness is prioritised in areas like Waterburg, Sekhukhune and Capricorn,” said Mabunda.

‘Stay vigilant’

The Provincial Health Department MEC, Dr Phophi Ramathuba, urged the community to stay vigilant.

“As we approach the rainy season, we continue to urge all malaria prone communities to stay vigilant and immediately report any cases to the nearest clinic or Primary Health Centre. We have so far trained surveillance teams consisting of Environmental Health Practitioners (EHS) and spray operators who will be on the ground testing and treating malaria. This will increase the malaria programmer’s ability to reach most malaria infected individuals and significantly decrease the malaria parasite reservoir in Limpopo. While the incidence of malaria has declined to lower levels, malaria remains a fatal disease if left undiagnosed and untreated. Malaria is preventable, Malaria is curable and malaria kills. Let’s make the malaria fight our responsibility. Zero Malaria infection starts with me,” said MEC Ramathuba.

Relying on Doom

Aaron Masie from Khujwana Village, a malaria prone area in Mopani District, feared for his family’s safety.

“As much as we want rain, we know that once the sun comes out we are going to pay the price. Our area is sandy and holds water. It is a perfect breeding ground for malaria and you just hope that you’re not infected when the next mosquito bites you,” said Masie.

” I spray my house with Doom and also use a fan to protect my family,” said the father of three.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that since the impact of climate change will vary from country to country and over time, the response too should be tailored to local conditions. – Health-e News 





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