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Environment Bill Brieger | 23 May 2010 06:40 pm

Should the Malaria Community Warm to Climate Change?

According to the BBC, “Reports from northern Nigeria say a growing number of people from Niger are crossing the border into Nigeria because of the food crisis at home. A BBC correspondent in the northern Nigerian state of Katsina says many women and children from Niger are seeking shelter with local families.” Although Niger has experienced droughts and famine before, such events are expected to become more frequent as the globe warms.

A recent article by Peter Gething and colleagues has basically sought to de-link the notion that climate change is synonymous with increased malaria transmission, and the Niger example may be a case in point. While there have been examples of warming leading to increased malaria transmission in the East African highlands, analysis by Gething’s group shows that overall, human efforts through recent massive control interventions are more of a factor in influencing a downward trend, than climate change could push transmission upwards.

eritrea-007a.jpgA drier environment that produces these famines is also less conducive to mosquitoes and malaria transmission. This, of course, is not the type of trade off one wishes in order to achieve malaria control targets.

The question of greater interest is whether the global community will continue to fund malaria control efforts and increase that funding so that climate change or any other factor will not stand in the way of malaria elimination?

Johan Rockström and colleagues address the question of economic growth and its impact on climate change and the environmental tipping points beyond which life as we know it may no longer be possible. If we move to a no growth scenario, will there still be funding to fight the major killer diseases? Will we put the breaks on climate change and yet forfeit progress on malaria control due to lack of funding?

Much depends on our priorities. Are we willing to stand up for a world that is saved from the environmental degradation caused by unlimited growth as well as one that is free from malaria?

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