Climate change worsening disease incidence in East Africa

Written By: Judith Akolo

Children with malaria attract more malaria mosquitoes
Climate change coupled by rising temperatures is providing a conducive environment for vector borne diseases. 
A leading Researcher at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Dr. Andrew Githeko is warning that rising temperatures have made it possible for disease vectors like mosquitoes to move to highland areas.
“This is worrying because mosquitoes are increasingly becoming resistant to insecticide treated mosquito nets which was a main intervention by the governments which have been providing the nets to residents in areas were malaria is endemic,” said Dr. Githeko during a presentation at a webinar on “Climate Change and Public Health in East Africa” organised by the Igad Climate Predictions and Applications Center(ICPAC).
Dr. Githeko noted that research has also shown that mosquitoes have changed in behaviour as they are able to bite people when they are outdoors as well as before 9pm when most families could be tacked in the insecticide treated mosquito nets.
The Researcher further warns that diseases like dengue fever, rift valley fever and chikungunya are viral diseases meaning they are caused by viruses and are also becoming more virulent as the vectors that transmit them have multiplied owing to the rise in temperatures and the availability of breeding grounds as well as suitable environment for their survival and multiplication.
“Chikungunya is becoming prevalent in urban areas because there are ready habitats for the mosquito that transmits it, like discarded tins, vehicle tyres that accumulate water which provides breeding grounds,” said Dr. Githeko and added, “We need to invest in Aedes mosquito research which spreads Rift Valley Fever, chikungunya and dengue fever which are viral diseases that are serious, do not have a cure.”
Dr. Githeko is urging governments to increase surveillance especially as the region goes into the long rains season of March through to May when the transmission of malaria is expected to rise due to the increasing temperatures as well as the above normal rainfall that has been predicted.
The Kenya Meteorological Department in the its March to May seasonal forecast has indicated that most areas of the country will receive above normal rainfall during the March to May long rains season.
According to Dr. Githeko areas like Kisumu has seen minimum temperatures rise from 19 degrees Celsius to 23 degrees Celsius while maximum temperatures are upwards of 36 degrees Celsius.
Dr. Githeko said that the rising water levels in Lake Victoria, Lake Nakuru, and Lake Turkana and the flooding the lakeshores are providing habitats for disease vectors.
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