New climate change research

Investigating the impact on people living in African drylands

TDR news item
10 July 2012

A major new research programme has begun in TDR to understand the impact of climate change in sub-Saharan Africa on people’s vulnerability to diseases carried by mosquitoes, flies and snails, such as malaria, leishmaniasis and schistosomiasis. With support from the International Development Research Center (IDRC), Canada, $6.8 million will be spent to identify those who are the most vulnerable to social, environmental and climate change, and to develop tools and strategies for adaptation to climate change in Africa.

Social and environmental determinants of disease are extremely complex, and understanding them requires fields like epidemiology, climate science, public health, social sciences, biology of the vectors that carry the diseases, and ecology. “Diverse research groups need to come together,” said Dr Yeya Touré, the programme leader. “It's also important to gather good meteorological and epidemiological data to try to establish the relationships between the two.”

Environment-vector research is especially understudied where they have the greatest effects, in dryland ecologies. “There isn't a clear enough understanding of the relationships between the social, environment and climate changes and health,” Touré said. “There is a need to gather evidence, with a particular focus on developing community-based strategies to address vulnerability and resilience.”

Environmental changes are becoming increasingly important. In the 2008 Libreville Declaration, African ministries of health called on the World Health Organization to facilitate research into the environmental determinants of disease. This programme will respond to that declaration by addressing some of these research gaps and offering long-term solutions.

“TDR has been collaborating with IDRC for 8 years on ecohealth related to dengue and Chagas disease in Asia and Latin America, through an eco-bio-social research perspective,” said Johannes Sommerfeld, who is implementing the project with Dr Arve Lee Willingham and Dr Yeya Touré. This type of multidisciplinary research, Sommerfeld explained, places the biological aspects of disease in the context of significant other factors like water resources, climate change, food insecurity and poverty.

A call for letters of interest has been issued. Up to 8 research projects will be funded for three years.

For more information, please contact:

Dr Yeya Touré
Telephone: +41 791 3884
E-mail: tourey@who.int

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