Climate Change The Unseen Fuel For Malaria Transmission

As the sweltering sun dips below the horizon Gajiri village on the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway in Suleja Local Government Area of Niger transforms into a battleground against an invisible foe.

Mosquitoes, the silent carriers of malaria, emerge in droves, marking the onset of another perilous night.

But amid this ominous setting, 27-year old Mrs Amina Jubril, a petty trader and mother of three, stands at the forefront of her community’s struggle.

Every evening, she gathers her children around a flickering kerosene lamp, recounting stories of her own battles with the disease.

Her youngest son, Ibrahim, had succumbed to malaria at the tender age of two, a loss that still haunted her every moment.

Yet, it was not just her personal tragedy that gripped the village; it was the stark reality that her story mirrored countless others across the country.

Unveiling the nexus between climate change and malaria transmission in Nigeria is not just about statistics and scientific jargon; it is about the toll it exacts on individuals like her, and on communities like Gajiri.

Mr Stephen Adamu, a 43-year old farmer, lives in his modest home in the Ushafa community in the Bwari Area of Abuja.

Each dawn, Adamu rises before the sun to tend to tend to his crops, his weathered hands a testament to years of toiling under the scorching sun.

For him and his community, climate change is not just a distant threat; it is a harsh reality that has reshaped their lives in profound ways.

He vividly recalled the days when malaria was merely a seasonal inconvenience, easily managed with herbal remedies passed down through generations.

However, as temperatures have soared and rainfall patterns become increasingly erratic, the once-predictable cycle of malaria outbreaks has spiraled into a relentless onslaught.

“Mosquitoes used to come with the rains, but now they are here year-round. We cannot escape them, no matter how hard we try,” he said, swatting at persistent insect buzzing around him.

Adamu’s story exemplifies the resilience of countless individuals and communities grappling with the intersecting challenges of climate change and malaria transmission in Nigeria.

Though their struggles may be invisible, their spirit and determination serve as a powerful reminder of the human cost of environmental degradation.

In spite of the increase in malaria control and elimination efforts, weather patterns and ecological factors continue to serve as major drivers of malaria transmission dynamics.

In Nigeria, where malaria remains a significant public health concern, a new threat looms large: climate change

A 2020 study on the effects of weather factors on malaria occurrence in Abuja, Nigeria, by a team of scholars led by Oguntade Emmanuel Segun revealed the link between malaria incidence and climatic predictors.

The study identified relative humidity as the primary driver of the malaria epidemic at lag 0, while the most substantial influence of temperature was observed at a 4-month lag.

Additionally, the influence of rainfall and humidity on malaria epidemics decreased with increasing lag months.

It sheds light on the intricate relationship between rising temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns, and the proliferation of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, particularly the female Anopheles species.

As global temperatures continue to rise, the implications for Nigeria’s battle against malaria are profound.

In 2023, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare reported an estimated 55 million cases of malaria and nearly 90,000 malaria deaths each year in the country.

The economic burden of malaria in Nigeria was estimated at N687 billion in 2022 and may increase to about N2 trillion in 2030.

According to experts; the link between climate change and malaria transmission is undeniable.

Changes in temperature, humidity, and rainfall create favourable e conditions for the survival and reproduction of Anopheles mosquitoes, extending their range and increasing their numbers.

These vectors, they say, thrive in warmer, wetter environments, leading to an expansion of malaria transmission zones across Nigeria.

Ms Joy Phumaphi, Executive Secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (AlMA), said that one of the most significant impacts of climate change on malaria transmission is the alteration of mosquito behaviour.

Phumaphi said that as temperatures rise, mosquitoes become more active, with longer breeding seasons and increased biting rates.

“This heightened activity not only escalates the risk of malaria transmission but also challenges existing control measures.

“Furthermore, changes in rainfall patterns disrupt the ecological balance, creating stagnant water pools ideal for mosquito breeding.

“Floodings, exacerbated by climate change, provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes, leading to sudden spikes in malaria cases in affected regions.

“Conversely, droughts can also fuel transmission as stagnant water sources become scarce, forcing humans and mosquitoes into closer proximity,” she said.

The implications of climate change on malaria go beyond public health.

The economic burden of the disease, already substantial in Nigeria as explained above, is expected to escalate as transmission rates increase.

Losses in productivity, healthcare costs, and decreased tourism revenue all contribute to the socioeconomic impact of malaria, exacerbating existing inequalities and hindering development efforts.

Dr Gbenga Jokodola, the 2024 World Malaria Day planning committee chairman, said that addressing the nexus between climate change and malaria in Nigeria required a multifaceted approach.

“Strengthening mosquito control measures, such as insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor residual spraying, remains crucial,” he said.

Jokodola emphasised that adaptation strategies must also be prioritised

He suggested the development of early warning systems for malaria outbreaks and the implementation of climate-resilient healthcare infrastructure.

He noted that mitigating climate change itself was paramount in reducing the long-term risk of malaria transmission.

“Nigeria, as a signatory to international climate agreements, must take proactive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in sustainable development practices,” he said.

In the face of this threat, collaboration between government agencies, research institutions and local communities is essential.

In Nigeria, the intertwined challenges of climate change and malaria transmission have prompted a robust response from local communities and a diverse array of stakeholders.

This multifaceted approach highlights the critical role of community-led initiatives, grassroots organisations, and government interventions in mitigating the dual threats.

Some local communities have taken proactive measures to address the impacts of climate change on malaria transmission.

One notable initiative is the establishment of community health committees in several rural areas.

These committees, comprised local volunteers and health workers, focus on educating residents about the correlation between climate change and malaria.

The Malaria Prevention and Climate Action Network (MPCAN) engages communities in advocacy, education, and hands-on projects aimed at reducing malaria incidence.

Its programmes include training community health workers in climate-resilient practices and advocating for the integration of climate change adaptation into local health policies.

The Federal Government has acknowledged the need for a coordinated response to the challenges posed by climate change and malaria.

The Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, in collaboration with its environment counterpart established the Climate and Health Initiative, aimed at developing and implementing climate-resilient health systems.

Key components include enhancing the capacity of health facilities to manage climate-related health risks, improving surveillance systems to track malaria trends in the context of changing weather patterns, and promoting research on innovative solutions.

Collaboration and solidarity are central to the success of these efforts.

Partnerships between local communities, NGOs, government agencies, and international organisations have fostered a comprehensive response.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria has provided substantial funding and technical support for community-led malaria prevention projects in Nigeria, strengthening local capacities to adapt to climate change.

Donor partners have also collaborated with academic institutions to conduct research on climate change and malaria transmission dynamics.

This researches have informed policy-making and led to the development of targeted interventions.

Community solidarity is also evident in the way residents mobilise during outbreaks, with people coming together to support affected families and share resources.

Several success stories illustrate the effectiveness of these collaborative efforts as experienced at Chika-Aleita community in the Federal Capital Territory.

A pilot project implemented by Roll Back Malaria and the government successfully reduced malaria incidence by 30 per cent over two years.

The project combined traditional malaria control measures with climate adaptation strategies, such as planting trees to reduce heat islands and improve local climate resilience.

The intersection of climate change and malaria transmission presents a significant challenge for Nigeria. However, there are actionable steps that individuals can take to contribute to positive change.

Knowledge is power, and sharing information can spur collective action. Adopting energy-efficient practices and reducing waste can help mitigate climate change with ripple effects on the fight against malaria.

(Culled from NAN)




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow by Email