Population Health Vulnerabilities to Vector-borne Diseases: Increasing Resilience under Climate Change Conditions in Africa
People in the drylands of sub-Saharan Africa suffer from poverty, food insecurity, a fragile economy, and social vulnerability. With climate change, they may also face increasing threats from vector-borne diseases. Vector-borne diseases, such as West Nile Virus and malaria, are spread through the bites of small organisms like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. Important transmitters of these diseases (vectors), such as mosquitoes and snails, depend on water to breed and survive. With climate change, however, water resources in Africa are becoming scarcer. More and more people and animals are concentrating around fewer sources of water, creating potential hotspots for disease. Damming, irrigation and other forms of water management are also creating new habitats and new exposure to vectors. The links between climate change, water management, and the impact of vector-borne diseases in Africa's drylands are not known. African ministries of health and others have called for more research into the environmental determinants of disease. This research will respond to this call by addressing some of these research gaps and offering long-term solutions. The Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), with support from IDRC, is implementing a major research program to understand the impact of climate change in sub-Saharan Africa on people's vulnerability to diseases carried by mosquitoes, flies, and snails. Focusing on remote or otherwise marginalized populations, the research will identify those who are most vulnerable to social, environmental, and climate change. It will explore how disease control strategies and tools can be used more effectively to reach these populations, and how to adapt these strategies to the changing environment. The initiative will also build the capacity of African researchers to generate, interpret, and use socio-economic, environmental, weather, and climate information to guide adaptive disease prevention and control strategies. It will also engage African policymakers to develop frameworks for improved vector-borne disease risk management and climate change adaptation, particularly to improve the resilience of vulnerable populations. TDR, in partnership with IDRC, will develop and implement a competitive call for letters of intent, a scientific review, and a proposal development workshop to support up to seven projects led by African researchers. TDR will coordinate the development of standardized data collection tools and will oversee synthesis, training of researchers, and documentation of the results and policy recommendations. The project will benefit research institutions, technical services, policymakers and communities in African drylands, particularly women and children in poor communities.