This year 2017 celebration is the 17th International MALARIA DAY commemoration on the continent. Governments in Africa still say they remain committed to eliminating and eradicating this mosquito carrying the disease called “Malaria”. This vector have refuse to relent in its attack and spread of Malaria and other deadly diseases to mankind.
The tale of momentary triumphs reported a few years ago of a likely decline of new cases of mosquitoes, appear to be a mirage, in the face of death annually report in billions which have been tired to the support that mosquitoes are receiving over the years from unusual allies.
The story of Climate change and the collaboration with mosquito have only given the story a tragic twist and making the tale a major global health problem in Africa and other parts of the world.
The response of a lot of organisms include animals to the dynamic nature of the environment in the last 12,000 years were to go extinct or to stop existing on earth, but few evolved.
Somehow, fortune smiled on the vector carrying disease mosquito, they quickly formed a partnership with this climatic phenomenon called climate change, to re-emerge much more destructive.
Exactly 17 years ago Africa union AU member countries committed to eradicate mosquito from Africa, this initiative was welcomed because the statistics displayed then revealed that Africa continue to be the largest continent to bear the biggest burden of malaria with over 89% of cases in 2015 and 92% of death caused by malaria come from Africa alone, over 90,000,000 people die annually from malaria making it is the singular public health disease threat on the continent since then till date. So, on the 25th April 2000 in Abuja, Nigeria the Roll Back Malaria initiative was launched and April 25th of every year was Adopted by AU and other African Government as “Malaria Day”. The sustained campaign from 2000 to 2015 against Malaria brought with it a short-lived celebration in 2015 when it appeared that there was so form of a decline in new malaria cases to about 23% but by 2010-2016 when the world was reporting record high temperature the gains against malaria were non-existence as there seems to be a resurgence of Malaria in Africa and the world.
I remembered my mother’s words in March of 2016 she said “it appear that malaria went to regroup and retrain on how to bite”, her comment triggered this write-up. However, the question we should be reflecting on is “Do mosquito now have allies that stand and fight for them? strange as it may sound I will try to answer the question at the end of this article.
Malaria (Plasmodium) doesn’t need any introduction to Africans, the disease is a protozoan infection transmitted by mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles. The four type of Plasmodium that infect humans appear to have evolved from a common ancestor. Mosquito also carries and transmit diseases to humans through their bites. It is the female mosquitoes that bite. The course of malaria involves bouts of fever alternating with periods of freedom from illness. Each episode begins with a brief period of shivering, a rapid but weak pulse, and a feeling of intense cold (rigour), followed by a period of distressing heat, accompanied by a flushed skin, intense headaches and nausea. Then followed by profuse sweating and a rapid drop in temperature, often to levels below normal.
A prominent feature of the febrile bouts is the periodic nature it present: They tend to recur every third day with Plasmodium. vivax, P. falciparum, and P. ovale and every fourth day with P. malariae.
The estimated cost of malaria in Africa is more than U.S $12 billion dollars every year. Insects are costing mankind that much you say but that’s the truth from WHO and World Bank. Yet, with all the fund expended on the fight to eradicate mosquito, it appears they have won the battle or did they truly go for a refreshers course on waging warfare against man?. They didn’t go for such course on warfare, the inconvenient truth is that mosquito has found new allies and the partnership indeed created the environment to breed and populate into an Army and with temperatures presently increasing since it started 250-300 years ago mosquitoes have become biological havoc infecting species to mankind.
So the million dollar question will be, is there a connection between the spread of mosquito-borne disease Malaria and climate change? And the answer is Yes, there is a link between them. The onset of climate Change will likely raise the infection rates of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria by creating a more mosquito-friendly area. They are vectors that can carry infective pathogens like as viruses, bacteria, and protozoa, to a host that can be human or other animals. The increased temperature due to climate change greatly affects the rapid growth of the immature mosquito to a full adult biting machine and the intensity with which the mosquito will bite. With this understanding, concerning the mosquito more bite will occur in humans. This was the conclusion of a research work in Yale School of Public Health in the US. As Africans, we must take steps to minimize the chances of being attacked by these vectors carrying diseases. Drain standing water in drainages and places where it can collect, using and sleeping under mosquito nets, keep screens on all the windows and doors in the house that can open. Proper dressing if going outside like wearing long trouser and sleeve shirts. If you develop symptoms, seek immediate treatment to safeguard your health and that of others in your area will seem to be an acceptable response but the best response against these invading forces of mosquito and their allies will be to reduce our carbon footprints, the less global warming we create, the less onslaught of mosquito-borne disease we will encounter. Indeed, Climate change will influence mankind vulnerability to mosquito-borne disease through the following factors, these Climatic factors will surely influence malaria transmission and vary according to the region. They include the following:
Temperature: high temperature increases the likelihood of transmission by altering the metabolism of the mosquito activities making them bite more and increasing their egg hatching thereby converting them from immature vector to a full biting machine are accelerated with the rising temperature.
Humidity: With rising temperature and high humidity mosquito can adapt to cope with the new environment. In the semi-arid region of Africa where high temperature are common the female mosquito can live up to a year by hiding in huts and other building structures. This strategy of their gives them free access to human blood which they feed on one notable feature is that these mosquitoes do not develop or lay eggs until the rains commence. Less of activities also help the mosquito survival rate and transmission of the vector carrying disease, even under adverse climatic conditions.
Rainfall: Tropical Rainfall promotes transmission by creating stagnant water and other breeding sites and drought may evaporate standing water but cause flowing water to stagnate. The story is the same in sewers and drainage seen in urban areas. Scarcity of water in the cities also cause people to store up waters in containers this stored water serve as breeding sites.
Seasonality: malaria transmission usually peak at a specific time of year, although such cadences have little impact on the health of the population because overall infection rates of malaria are so high especially during the commencement of raining seasons.
There are other factors apart from the climatic factor that influences the human exposure to mosquito-borne diseases they are called the Non-climate factors. These Non-climate factors influence the vulnerability of humans to mosquito-borne disease; especially in Africa, they all have direct link to the socio-economic factors and human exploitative activities in the respective regions. The factors partner with mosquito to help drives transmission of malaria. They are:
1.Tree and forest clearance: Mosquito breeds in stagnant water seen around so forest clearance and tree removal provides such environment.
2.Agriculture Practice: Irrigation in agricultural practise often create an excellent environment for the mass production of mosquitoes with the construction of dams for irrigation or hydroelectric power can also lead to high populations of mosquitoes. Other pool of water that are stagnant like abandoned fish ponds are prolific breeding site.
3.Migration: As Infected people move in search of a better life from areas infested with malaria they introduce malaria to the host community they have integrated into while does who have not been infested with malaria are at high risk, if they move to an area of infested with malaria.
4.Urbanization: with the expansion and growth cities areas, extensive water storage and inadequate water disposal can lead to high mosquito breeding site and population. Q lot of African cities are surrounded by large slums these crowed places promote conditions that are ideal for Mosquito transmission.
5.Resistance to antimalarial drugs: Drugs can be used to prevent malaria infection or to cure infections, but can lead to insecticide resistance in the insect mosquito, which may leading to the emergence of strains of drug-resistant vector. This one of the reasons why malaria prevention and control strategy have started placing importance on developing anti-malaria drugs than canvassing for the use of insecticidal strategies. The malaria drugs resistance is now common and have contributed to the resurgence of malaria.
6.Poor healthcare system: healthcare system in most African nations are non-existent and are poorly run by government with no budgetary funding, and no availability of infrastructure, managing the cases of malaria will almost be impossible.
7. Violent conflicts, War and natural disaster: The breakdown of law and order in a region or declaration of humanitarian disaster as a result of natural event will make forced migration of people inevitable the movement of people from one place to another truly promotes malaria transmission, wars will cause damage to infrastructures like water and drainage systems which will help the transmission of malaria the additional input from climate change is a willing ally that the recrudescence of the disease called Malaria.
Climate change will have both short and long term effects on vector-borne disease transmission and infection patterns, as they interact with non-climate factors it becomes much clear that mankind is indeed fight for survival from all sides. Hence the need to take climate change seriously, including the science of studying and researching how mosquitoes have adapted and change, how all these ecosystem variables have combined with this vector, better land use regulations that can be explored, the changing demographics, and the adaptive and mitigation policies we must imbibe to achieve a sustainable future.
So, as Africans and government leaders, we must be clear the fight against malaria is not only through the use chemotherapy or the distribution of mosquito nets or clearing stagnated water around the area where they congregate understanding the science of climate change is key if we intend to eradicate these army and their allies.
The 2017 celebration of international Malaria Day, should be about finally eradicating this insect biting diseases spreading vectors. We can achieve this through application of the individual-level adaptive capacity or community-level adaptive capacity, or the ability to reduce the potential exposures that may be caused by climate change.
Climate factors are useful benchmarks to indicate seasonal risk and broad geographic changes in disease occurrence over decades but the human vulnerability to Mosquito-borne disease is more holistically evaluated by examining climate factors with non-climate factors.
The chairman of Climate Reality Project, an international NGO that raises awareness on climate change, Mr. Al Gore who was a former Vice-President of US, at a climate and health conference in Atlanta early this year, made a point while showing the picture of a mosquito in the PowerPoint presentation he was giving he said that “climate change is titling the balance, disrupting natural ecosystems and giving more of an advantage to microbes”.
The report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that extreme weather contributes to the risk of mosquito-borne diseases. A scientist at the University of Miami explained that as climate change continues there will be some sort of tropical bioclimatic regional or zones shift upslope to replace temperate zones, this in turn will lead to more people and new regions exposed to various disease. This is the story of how mosquito and climate change have team up to spread mosquito in our continent and all over the world.
Therefore, the call to celebrate 2017 Malaria Day as Africans should be a clarion call for renewal of our sincere commitment to eradicate malaria in Africa, not only through distribution of nets, prescription of malaria drugs and on application of vaccine was are good, but also through understanding the climatic variable and for government to properly fund research in malaria.
All commmitment must involve international cooperation from UN, WHO, WMO and other relevant organization, and robust partnerships among researchers in Africa is a must, if it already doesn’t exist. It will require strong action by individuals, societies, and nations to match the threat that mosquitoes and climate change. As humans we must now ally with ourselves and ecologically sustainable innovative technology to win this war against mosquitoes.
So a high-level political commitment by government in Africa will be important with the mobilization of all form of resources that must include understanding the science of climate change and the spread of disease, they are required to build the effective weapon against eradication of malaria. Therefore the best defense still requires individual level and communities’ level of commitment. The individual strategies have been highlighted above but will need to be replicated in the community level and national stage in the respective nations in Africa. The community level requires that government at all level pay more attention to slum settlements around the cities and make sincere effort to develop rural areas to reduce the influx of people into the cities and ensure strict regulation compliance of environmental laws and infrastructural development which must comply with ecologically sustainable standard.
Therefore, accelerating the coverage to ensure total eradication will require sustainable financial mechanism which must be targeted at vulnerable group majorly such as young children less than 5 years, elderly persons, and pregnant women and the collaborative effort of everyone in Africa.
Overall strengthening the healthcare delivery system will not only need providing the new drugs at affordable price for the people but will require that nations developing climate resilient strategy in other sectors like Agriculture, Environment and Energy which will be supported by technology for a sustainable future in Africa.
Source: The Nigerian Voice (opinions)