Climate change leads to more malaria, tuberculosis up in a recession

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By Leela de Kretser

Climate change is increasing malaria infections, the executive director of the world's biggest health fund said in Davos.

Huge surges in malaria infections followed recent floods in Pakistan and cyclones in Mozambique in 2021, said Peter Sands, the executive director of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

"Whenever you have an extreme weather event it's fairly common to have a surge of malaria," he said at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos.

The increase in extreme weather events, and the resulting large pools of standing water that attract mosquitoes, are leaving poorer populations vulnerable.

He said climate change was also changing the geography of mosquitoes. The highlands of Africa, in Kenya and Ethiopia, are now succumbing to malaria because of a shift in the low temperatures that once made the area unsustainable for mosquitoes.

Sands runs the world's largest global fund, which invests in fighting tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS in some of the poorest nations in the world.

The fund, which set a target of raising $18 billion, has so far raised $15.7 billion, the largest amount of money ever raised in global health.

Part of the shortfall, he said, was a billion dollar hit from currency fluctuations that affected donations.

Looking ahead, climate change is just one of the factors that could hamper efforts to eradicate the diseases, Sands said.

The war in Ukraine has led to a worsening of AIDS and tuberculosis. In middle income countries such as India, Pakistan and Indonesia, tuberculosis cases amongst the poorest populations are also rising.

With fears of a global recession rising, Sands said those countries would come under increased pressure.

"I think the big concern from our perspective is what happens to health budgets in the 120 or so countries we are investing in. And even within those health budgets, how much is being taken up by COVID?"

© Thomson Reuters 2023.

©2023 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Infectious diseases are a huge handicap for nations in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, this is because many of them are sensitive to the climate, specially those that are arthropod vectored such as malaria.

The highlands of Africa are just one of the regions where these diseases can now spread much more easily thanks to the spreading of the mosquitoes, fractions of a degree more could mean many other could follow and people that are not used bir prepared to deal with the outbreaks would soon be experiencing them.

Japan for example is also vulnerable to mosquito transmitted diseases, as the spreading of Japanese Encephalitis virus proves, thankfully JE can be fought with vaccines, other diseases like Dengue or Chikungunya fever not.

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