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EU funded climate change talks target Africa states

04 August 2015, 12:32

Nairobi - The European Union (EU)-funded researchers found that climate change may influence the prevalence of various deadly diseases, according to a press release of the European Commission on Monday.

Already ill-equipped to deal with epidemics, it is the poorest areas, with limited public health resources - such as eastern Africa - that would suffer the most if climate change increases incidences of crippling and deadly diseases, said the press release.

Researcher from the project of HEALTHY FUTURES sought to understand the links between climate change and health, and developed tools to help local communities and regional actors assess and better manage the risks.

The project focused on malaria, Rift Valley Fever and schistosomiasis in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, which are water-related and vector-borne - malaria and Rift Valley fever are transmitted by mosquitoes, which breed in pools of water, while schistosomiasis is caused by parasitic worms hosted by freshwater snails.

Armed with current forecasts of potential climate changes, the project's findings on local vulnerability to the diseases and mathematical models that predict how the diseases could evolve at various points in the future, the HEALTHY FUTURES team was able to create an online atlas showing risk, hazard and vulnerability.

Risk can be defined as the chance of harm, while hazard refers to anything that can cause harm.

The atlas is available to everyone. "It helps stakeholders come to terms with the possibilities decade by decade," explained Mark Booth of Durham University, a work package leader within the project, "it's about capturing uncertainty and trying to make sense of it in a rational way."

The option to zoom in on a particular locality makes the atlas particularly valuable, providing information on spatial variations in risk and vulnerability, and ensuring relevance for the whole region.

Moreover, the atlas is part of an array of decision support tools (DSTs) developed by the HEALTHY FUTURES team, which also includes guidelines for all three diseases. The guidelines are designed to facilitate decision making on actions to tackle the diseases under conditions of environmental change.

Initial response to the atlas has been positive, but Booth had plans to encourage further take-up and development of this and other DSTs. The World Health Organization (WHO) had only recently begun to include climate change in its reports on disease control, and the project team would like to encourage this.

"I think it's the right time to talk to the WHO about using the results of HEALTHY FUTURES and incorporating climate change into their strategy for disease prevention," he said.

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- Xinhua


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