Turn climate crisis into a chance to end Malaria


Rose Waringa,  an Assistant Governor of the Rotary Club of Siaya hands over a mosquito net to a community health promoter in Siaya. [File, Standard]

A recent investment conference presented a moment for leaders and stakeholders to confront the dual challenges of climate change and malaria eradication.

In Kenya, where approximately 70 per cent of the population is at risk with endemic areas like Homa Bay County at the forefront, the battle against the disease is not just a health issue but a developmental hurdle.

Despite significant progress, with malaria prevalence dropping from 11.2 per cent to 6 per cent between 2010 and 2020, the fight is far from won. The ambitious goal to render Kenya malaria-free by 2030 is within reach, yet it requires an innovative approach, particularly in the face of the escalating climate crisis. Climate change exacerbates the malaria menace, with the World Health Organisation projecting an alarming rise in cases and mortality. The changing climate extends the breeding season and range of mosquitoes, putting millions more at risk. Yet, this crisis also presents an unprecedented opportunity for action. The recent declaration of Cabo Verde as malaria-free is a beacon of hope, underscoring the potential for success through strategic planning, collaboration and sustained effort. Cabo Verde ‘s victory over malaria, achieved through expanded diagnosis, early treatment, and vigilant case reporting, demonstrates that eradication is achievable.

Kenya’s own strides in combating malaria, particularly in counties like Homa Bay, are commendable. Initiatives by organisations such as Amref have empowered community health promoters, leading to significant improvements in treatment and prevention at the grassroots level. These efforts, however, must be scaled up and infused with the urgency and innovation necessitated by the climate crisis. 

To transform the climate crisis into a stepping stone towards malaria eradication, we propose a multifaceted approach. Firstly, political will and leadership are paramount. We call upon the President and Governors to champion the cause, provide resources and support to combat malaria within the broader framework of climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. Secondly, the public health sector must capitalise on the increased funding for climate change initiatives to bolster malaria control efforts. These funds should be allocated efficiently, supporting the scale-up of proven interventions such as insecticide-treated nets and indoor residual spraying, as well as investing in research for new vector control technologies. 

Furthermore, integrating malaria prevention into climate-resilient infrastructure projects offers a strategic advantage. Enhancing surveillance and early warning systems can help pre-empt outbreaks, allowing for timely interventions and resource allocation. 

Lastly, a data-driven approach is essential. Leveraging epidemiological modelling and climate data can improve our understanding of how climate change affects malaria transmission, enabling targeted interventions that are both effective and sustainable.

As Kenya and the world grapple with the challenges posed by climate change, it is crucial to recognise the interconnectedness of climate and health outcomes. The climate crisis, while daunting, provides a unique opportunity to rethink and reinvigorate our approach to malaria eradication. 

Aligning our efforts against malaria with climate adaptation strategies can safeguard the health and well-being of millions, paving the way for a healthier, malaria-free future. In face of climate change, our response to malaria must be dynamic, innovative, and inclusive, drawing on the strength of communities, the dedication of health workers, and the resolve of leaders.

Let us make a lasting impact, turn the tide against malaria in the era of climate change.

The writers work at Amref Health Africa in Kenya