How climate change helps Malaria spread
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March 7, 2023
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How climate change helps Malaria spread

With rising temperatures fueled by climate change, we can expect to see malaria to come back with rage in Africa.

Malaria projections

Africa in the past century and even now has dealt with the constant spread of various diseases for which, a lot of the time, lacked appropriate medication supplies and infrastructure to combat their spread. Many towns and cities are built just high enough for them to escape the Malaria line, the altitude which can be reached by Malaria carrying mosquitoes. With rising temperatures however, the altitude that these mosquitoes can fly increases, risking those places that were built to be safe from them. Estimations have projected that by 2030, an additional 90 million Africans will be exposed to Malaria.

A new study has just confirmed this fear, finding that the altitude which mosquitoes could fly in has been elevating by 6.5 meters per year. The authors believe that climate change could explain and matches the malaria range over time. Climate change can also cause changes in the environment that are favourable to the growth and survival of mosquitoes, such as decreased availability of water or vegetation. As temperatures increase, the mosquitoes’ reproductive rate increases, leading to an increase in the number of infected mosquitoes.

Malaria is also closely linked with poverty since poor people are more likely to live in unventilated houses and overcrowded areas which can become a target for mosquitoes. Whilst to many people in the West, climate change is experienced as a problem for the future, comprised of various projections and scenarios, in many places in Africa and Global South , climate change is already there and its consequences can be felt in their communities. Climate change is a lived reality not a future projection. As such it should be confronted on two fronts. The first one is cutting emissions so that this problem and many others won’t continue to accelerate and regenerate themselves. The second front concerns us specifically with Malaria and poor African areas which are and will be even more, on dire help of medication, infrastructure and finical help in order to escape the conditions which make the spread of Malaria possible. The author of the study, Colin Carlson is convinced that the increased range in Malaria spread is related to climate change, saying that:

“If this were random, and if it were unrelated to climate, it wouldn’t look as cleanly climate-linked,”

The reality of climate change

Malaria can, however, prove to be just the beginning. A number of other diseases can spread like wildfire if our global temperature keeps going up. This will send us into constant health crises which will be very difficult to respond to accordingly with sufficient medical supply and care. A rise of global temperatures beyond the 1.5 degrees already agreed in the Paris Agreement, will surely prove to be a death sentence for the Global South. One can only imagine the rest of the human disasters that these projected health crises can cause. Meningitis outbreaks are likewise expected to increase in Africa, as the disease is highly correlated with drought. Same thing can be said about Dengue and Zika.

We should stop thinking of climate change as a phantom, as a ghostly cloud of projections which might or might not pass the threshold of reality. In a lot of places, they’ve already passed this threshold and people are dealing with the consequences.