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Extreme heat & climate change could increase the risk of malaria and other diseases

August 9, 2022
by Healthcare World

With record-breaking heat waves dominating summer forecasts worldwide, there are increasing global health risks resulting from climate change, particularly in mosquito-borne diseases which are among the most climate-sensitive diseases.

Rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns and extreme weather events are complicating efforts to eliminate malaria, according to Malaria No More. This year’s UN climate report projects that vector-borne diseases in Africa, such as malaria and dengue fever, may double by 2050 and triple by 2080 due to global warming. The same report projects that those at risk of malaria infection could increase by 134 million by 2030 in South Asia.

US President Joe Biden sounded the alarm on the impacts of climate change on the malaria fight in April for World Malaria Day.

“As climate change causes warmer, wetter, and more extreme weather, malaria-carrying mosquitoes will be able to breed and spread their disease more easily,” he declared.

About 8.4 billion people – or almost 90 per cent of the projected global population – could be exposed to malaria or dengue fever by 2080 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, according to a recent study published in The Lancet Planetary Health. 

North America is included in that risk area, as the report predicts a potential “northward shift” of both the malaria and dengue epidemic belts.

“Extreme heat, severe weather, and increasing temperatures are wreaking havoc on our collective health and contributing to an alarming uptick in cases of mosquito-borne diseases worldwide,” says Martin Edlund, Malaria No More CEO. 

“Today, as temperatures soar, the malaria fight is struggling to contain this deadly disease in endemic areas, like Africa and Southeast Asia.  If these warming trends continue, hundreds of millions more people could be at risk of dying from a simple mosquito bite.”

To support governments in “climate proofing” their malaria elimination efforts through the use of increasingly sophisticated technology, Malaria No More launched Forecasting Healthy Futures in 2020. 

This initiative advocates for investment in climate-informed tools and policies to help governments and partners better time and target effective health interventions in the face of changing weather patterns.

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