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Kachanga is a small settlement on the Ugandan banks of Lake Victoria. It is populated by fishermen and their families for whom the lake provides their livelihood. But in May, following huge rainfalls, the lake rose to its highest ever level and submerged the village, forcing people from their homes and destroying their possessions.

Along the shore, the same thing was happening in dozens of communities like Kachanga as Lake Victoria expanded up to four kilometres inland. Hundreds of people relocated to villages further from its banks and local authorities supported some to put up temporary shelters. Sudden flooding like this is becoming more common in Uganda, with similar floods reported around the country in the same month.

Flooding can increase the number of breeding sites for malaria vectors

The first priority for people living in at-risk communities like this is to get to a place of safety but, in the aftermath, they are left to contend not only with livelihood vulnerability but an increased threat to their health. While uncertainty remains around how erratic weather patterns can affect specific health outcomes, it is clear that flooding can increase the number and range of breeding sites for Anopheles mosquitoes that transmit malaria.

Long-lasting insecticide nets (LLINs), which can protect users against malaria for up to three years, is the first line of defence against the negative health outcomes perpetuated by flooding. USAID’s Malaria Action Program for Districts, led by Malaria Consortium, responded to the increased threat of malaria by distributing around 3,000 LLINs in Masaka district.

Whilst LLINs could alleviate some of the immediate health problems of the people of Kachanga, the longer-term variability of the climate in Uganda is more difficult to predict. As part of Malaria Consortium’s Future Health series, we explore how climate change and variability can affect health and disease outcomes for people across our countries of operation and recently published a statement on how we factor climate-related risks into our programmes in Uganda and around the world. Over time, these approaches will help build community resilience to the unpredictable impact of climatic changes.

Key approaches to mitigate climate-related risk

In the case of Kachanga and other communities in Uganda, we are continuously striving to improve surveillance and monitoring of malaria incidence by strengthening national and sub-national systems to better track disease transmission and respond to the impacts of climatic changes.  We’re also working with community leaders to develop community engagement activities to highlight the ways in which communities protect themselves from the health impact of climatic changes. These are two of nine key approaches we are incorporating into our programmes to help mitigate climate-related risks.

To learn more about Malaria Consortium’s position on climate, read the full position statement.

This paper is the third in Malaria Consortium’s ‘Future Health’ series, in which the organisation is using its expertise and experience of running health intervention programmes around the world to share its position on some of the biggest threats to and developments in global health. The five topics covered in the series are antimicrobial resistance, vaccines, climate change, dengue and digital health. 

Ashley Giles is Senior Communications Officer at Malaria Consortium

Cover photo by Bill Wegener at Lake Victoria, Uganda

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