389A Enhancing National Climate Services for Malaria Control in Eastern Africa

Monday, 11 January 2016
Aisha Sekelaga Muhammad, International Research Institute for Climate and Society/Columbia University, New York, NY; and M. Thomson, A. Woyessa, T. Dinku, D. Korecha, R. Cousin, A. G. Barnston, and B. Lyon

For more than fifteen years, the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) partnership has coordinated the efforts of countries and organizations to reduce morbidity and mortality rates caused by malaria as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Consequently, national governments and international donors have invested billions of dollars in global malaria control. The MDG report for 2015 highlights the success to date of 6.2 million malaria deaths averted between 2000 and 2015, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. The global economic crisis and other emerging global priorities, however, threaten the long-term success of malaria control across Africa. In light of new financial realities and to ensure success and sustained funding in the new Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) environment, the new RBM report “Action and Investment to defeat Malaria 2016-2030” recommends building alliances between malaria programs, ministries of health and relevant environmental and development partners (including the national meteorological agencies) as a way of securing access to adaptation funds and managing climate-related risks. As part of this new strategy, a more data-driven approach is necessary, demonstrating the impact and value of using domestic budgets and broader international development “aid” for malaria. To do this, countries should be able to access, manage and use all relevant data that can help prioritize interventions and target resources for maximum impact. This includes the use of nationally owned, quality controlled, climate information at spatial and temporal resolutions suitable to plan and implement malaria control and elimination in the context of a broader development agenda. Until recently, such data was only available from global providers who have limited access to local in situ observations. In the absence of control, the epidemiology of malaria in Eastern Africa is profoundly affected by the region's climate. Climatic patterns, which typically exhibit two rainy seasons, are markedly complex and can change rapidly over short distances given substantial variations in topography. Rainfall variations during these seasons are largely linked to the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon and anomalous sea surface temperatures across the Indian Ocean. The spatial coherence and potential predictability of this atmospheric teleconnection is a valuable component of the array of climate information that can be used in malaria control. The 1997/98 El Niño event, the strongest on record, produced above-normal rainfall and temperatures in Eastern Africa and was associated with widespread and devastating malaria epidemics across the region. The strong El Niño event currently underway is considered comparable in strength to the 1997/98 event, with predicted above-normal air temperatures around the tropical belt and an increased chance of above-normal rainfall in Eastern Africa during the October-December season, both of which may increase the climate suitability for malaria across the region.
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