|Climatic changes are being observed across the African continent. These changes may be contributing to the spread of malaria, especially in Ethiopia where the diverse topography, varied vector abundance and unstable weather patterns converge to create a unique case study. A study conducted in Ethiopia showed that climate variability affects malaria cases as a result of the changing magnitude and seasonality of rainfall and temperatures (1). As governments and the wider international community enter a crucial year for both global health and climate action, it is a timely opportunity to assess the tools available to Ethiopia to limit the impact of climatic changes on the transmission of malaria.
1. Strengthening surveillance and the use of data
Incorporating climate data into existing surveillance systems for disease control is a core part of climate adaptation. Work has already been done within Ethiopia to increase access to climate data. The National Meteorological Agency of Ethiopia has organised quality climate information that can be accessed online using the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI)’s Maproom/ENACTS database, allowing various health organisations and actors to view and analyse climate data. However, there is further work to do to popularise the use of this system and further develop the data available to ensure it is constantly updated and relevant across all diseases. This should include resources to improve internet connectivity and cascading skills to local facilities where data capture takes place.
2. Community engagement
Ethiopia’s health system already contains a strong network of community health workers and services. This can be capitalised on in a bid to engage communities around the effects of climate change and how they are felt at the community level. Existing village health clubs can be utilised to spread knowledge around climate issues and how erratic weather could impact a community on a day-to-day basis. Malaria Consortium advocates for the use of the Community Dialogue Approach in response to complex issues that impact on the health of a community. This approach has already been trialled to address antibiotic resistance in Bangladesh and neglected tropical diseases in Mozambique and could be a useful tool to facilitate locally led action to improve climate resilience. Awareness campaigns – shaped by local knowledge and designed in collaboration with local leaders – should also be developed and disseminated within existing community structures and networks.
3. Cross-disease and sector collaboration
Collaboration to mitigate the impact of climatic changes in Ethiopia is required on a cross-disease and a cross-sectoral basis. A study revealed that there are inadequate levels of inter-sectoral collaboration and poor coordination and communication among different stakeholders (2). This is an acknowledgement that climatic changes are relevant to a range of health issues not only limited to malaria, but to pneumonia and malnutrition too. While surveillance must take place to monitor climate data in comparison with various disease outcomes, a coordinated, multi-sectoral response is also required to effectively target the health risks. This means mainstreaming the climate response into the policies and plans of all health-determining sectors and departments in Ethiopia.
4. Research for resilience
Ethiopia’s complex climate and diverse disease burden means that there is an ongoing task to maintain a comprehensive understanding of the region-specific effects of climate change and the present and future ability of communities to mitigate these risks. Operational studies should be undertaken to carve out practical solutions to climate-related challenges while preparedness evaluations would allow a greater understanding of the ability of health services to cope with the changing demands caused by climatic changes.
Climate change will leave Ethiopia vulnerable to increased extreme weather events to add to its already diverse climate. The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) taking place in Glasgow, United Kingdom this month presents a perfect opportunity to bolster the financing of climate action globally. Within Ethiopia, there are already ambitious climate projects happening with support from Climate Investment Funds (CIF), but to support the increasing need for improved surveillance systems and capacity building and community engagement, more country-level financing will be required.
Learn more about Malaria Consortium’s wider view on climate change and disease control in our position statement on climate.
Dr Agonafer Tekalegne is Malaria Consortium’s Country Director in Ethiopia.
Dr Adugna Woyessa is an Epidemiologist and Public Health Specialist at the Ethiopian Public Health Institute.
1. Girma Taye, Mirgissa Kaba, Adugna Woyessa, Wakgari Desessa, Belay Simane, Abera Kumie, Getachew Berhane. Modeling effect of climate variability on malaria in Ethiopia. Ethiopian Journal of Health Development, January 2015.
2. Belay Simane, Hunachew Beyene, Wakgari Deress, Abera Kumie, Kiros Berhane, Jonathan Samet. Review of Climate Change and Health in Ethiopia: Status and Gap Analysis. Ethiopian Journal of Health Development, 2016.
3. Dereje Birhanu, Hyeonjun Kim, Cheolhee Jang, Sanghyun Park. Flood Risk and Vulnerability of Addis Ababa City Due to Climate Change and Urbanization. Procedia Engineering, Volume 154, 2016, Pages 696-702.
4. Brook Legese, Boneya Gumi. Flooding in Ethiopia;Causes, Impact and Coping Mechanisms. A Review. IJRAR September 2020.