Disease control division to work with Met Office to combat climate-induced epidemics

  • Vector-borne diseases like malaria found in areas earlier considered non-endemic
- Arjun Poudel, Kathmandu

Apr 26, 2019-

The Epidemiology and Disease Control Division of the Department of Health Services has decided to consult with the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology while devising its strategy to combat epidemics caused by climatic variations.

The decision of the division comes after epidemics of vector-borne diseases—such as malaria, dengue, kala-azar, Japanese encephalitis and others—were found in areas earlier considered non-endemic.

The change in climate pattern is attributed to the spread of vector-borne diseases in such areas.

The latest study carried out by the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology shows that the average annual maximum temperature of the country has risen by 0.056 degrees Celsius between 1971 and 2014.

The average annual mean temperature may see a rise by 0.92-1.07 degrees Celsius in the medium-term period (2016-2045) and 1.30-1.82 degrees Celsius in the long-term period (2036-2065), according to a joint study carried out by the department and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

“We are in the initial stage of collaboration with the met office,” said Dr Bibek Kumar Lal, director at the division. “We cannot deal with such epidemics and meet the target of ridding the country of malaria and other vector-borne diseases without taking climatic variations into consideration.”

Nepal has committed to making the country malaria-free by 2025.

According to the division, cases of malaria were found in Mugu, Humla, Kalikot and Bajura, districts that were considered malaria non-endemic in the past. The government had not allocated the budget or launched any programme to fight vector-borne diseases in these districts.

But in the nine months of the current fiscal year, 168 malaria cases have been reported in Mugu, making it the district with the highest number of cases in the country. The district had the second highest cases of malaria last fiscal year, with 229 people infected with the deadly disease.

The World Health Organization also said that malaria epidemics can occur when climatic and other conditions suddenly create a favourable environment for transmission in areas where people have little to no immunity to malaria.

Lal said that his office needs information about the change in temperature and precipitation to make effective strategies to fight against vector-borne diseases. For that purpose, the division has sent an official to the met office to consult with climate change experts.

Meanwhile, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the WHO regional director for South-East Asia, urged member states to mobilise adequate and sustained funding for national malaria programmes—including that from external partners—and to distribute the funds appropriately and efficiently at every level of implementation.

In a statement issued on the occasion of World Malaria Day, Singh stressed the need for cross-border collaboration and region-wide mechanism with specific focus on drug- and insecticide-resistance to integrate malaria surveillance and to help achieve targets.

“The WHO is always committed to providing its member states full technical and operational support to ensure that malaria’s burden is lifted region-wide,” reads the statement.

Published: 26-04-2019 09:37

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