The perfect storm: how climate change and malaria converge

The perfect storm: how climate change and malaria converge

The perfect storm: how climate change and malaria converge

Photo: Damien Schumann/MMV


Authors: Andre-Marie Tchouatieu, Director, Access & Project Management, MMV and Doreen Akiyo Yomoah, Communications Officer, MMV

Dorcas Dako from Ségou, Mali, walks several kilometres a day during the rainy season. As a community healthcare worker (CHW), she goes door to door to administer seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC), an intervention that protects children in areas where malaria transmission is highly seasonal (transmitted during the annual rainy season typically lasting up to 4 months).

Since SMC was first implemented in 2013 following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation, the intervention has saved the lives of many children in sub-Saharan Africa: in 2022 alone, SMC protected 48 million children from malaria. Preventive interventions like SMC, intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy (IPTp), and perennial malaria chemoprevention (PMC), as well as medicines that treat the disease, all contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically Target 3.3. However, the extent to which these interventions can save lives is under threat due to climate change.

Health and climate change are inextricably linked

The links between health, disease, and climate change are inextricable. According to WHO, climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health. Several factors determine the degree to which an individual’s or a community’s health is at risk, such as where they live; their gender, race, and age; what they do for work; and their socioeconomic status. The effects on people’s health have already been observed by experts. Unjustly, those who are the most at risk for climate-change-related ill-effects on their health are those who have the least wealth and have contributed the least to climate change while also risking being left behind by climate adaptation and mitigation measures. This phenomenon is known as a “triple injustice.” As the global health community reckons with its inequitable history, people in developing nations must not continue to bear the brunt of the changing climate.

Natural disasters that exacerbate health inequities are occurring with greater frequency, especially in developing nations that may not have the infrastructure to cope with the aftermath. Extreme flooding like that observed in Pakistan in 2022 and following Cyclone Freddy in Madagascar, Malawi, and Mozambique resulted in increased cases of malaria and other water-borne diseases, straining resource-stretched health systems even further. Even in the absence of extreme natural disasters, shifts in rainy and dry seasons, and changes in where disease-carrying vectors can survive have resulted in expansion of disease.

To read the full article, please visit the SDG Action website.