Grantees announced for research on impact of climate change on vector-borne diseases in Africa
Five research projects have been approved for funding to contribute to reducing health vulnerabilities and increasing resilience against vector-borne disease risks under climate change conditions in Africa. Climate change is adding new pressures throughout the continent on populations already suffering from poverty, food insecurity, ecological and social vulnerabilities. The research programme is taking a multi-pronged approach to explore how to improve disease control strategies and tools, and increase the capacity to generate, interpret, and use new knowledge to inform policies and practices.
The diseases covered by the projects are malaria, schistosomiasis, human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), and Rift Valley fever. There are 2 grants led by institutions in South Africa, and one each by institutions in Tanzania, Kenya, and Côte d’Ivoire. The 5 finalists approved for funding were selected out of 74 letters of interest received through a competitive call, of which 10 were shortlisted to develop full proposals reviewed by a scientific advisory group. Each of the 5 grants was awarded for 3 years with funding ranging from US $600 000 to US $844 000.
The research teams are conducting trans-disciplinary research involving entomology, malacology, epidemiology, parasitology, and social, economic, and environmental sciences, and working in close collaboration with relevant decision-makers, as well as affected communities, particularly marginalized populations (women and children). Representatives of the 5 selected research teams met for the first time in Nairobi 24-28 June 2013 to review processes and timetables and set up their project network.
The research projects are part of a 4-year grant (2012-2016) for a new TDR programme funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), as part of the Government of Canada's commitment to fast-start financing under the Copenhagen Accord. The programme is being implemented in collaboration with the World Health Organization’s Department for Public Health and Environment, the African Regional Office’s Programme for the Protection of Human Environment, and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University, New York (USA). In addition to providing financial support, IDRC is also contributing technical and financial advice.
Brief descriptions of the 5 projects
1. Social, environmental and climate change impact of vector-borne diseases in arid areas of Southern Africa
Principal investigator: Moses Chimbari, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
This project is assessing the impact of social and environmental determinants and climate change on malaria and schistosomiasis in Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. It is focusing on dryland ecologies and water systems (rivers, lakes, rain-fed systems, irrigation schemes) for developing adaptation strategies for reducing population health vulnerabilities to these diseases. The work uses a trans-disciplinary approach and community participation to address gender equity and knowledge for action. Policy-making stakeholders in the ministries of health and environment and custodians of country national adaptation plans are involved for policy formulation and uptake of findings.
2. Early warning systems for improved human health and resilience to climate sensitive vector-borne diseases in Kenya
Principal investigator: Benson Estambale, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, Bondo, Kenya
In Kenya, changes in climate are likely to result in an increase in temperatures with a decline in precipitation. This, in turn, may lead to an increase in the prevalence of the climate sensitive vector-borne diseases (VBDs). The effect of this change on VBDs is considered greatest in the dryland areas where women and children are particularly more vulnerable. This study is looking at the role played by temperature, precipitation, humidity, and landscape cover in Kenya, and the potential effect of climate change on diseases such as malaria and Rift Valley Fever. It is expected to come up with early warning techniques for improving the management and control of climate sensitive vector-borne diseases in Kenya.
3. Predicting vulnerability and improving resilience of the Maasai communities to vector-borne infections: an ecohealth approach in the Maasai Steppe ecosystem
Principal investigator: Paul Gwakisa, Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST), Arusha, Tanzania
Agricultural encroachment and changes in water availability are forcing the Maasai to change their traditional movement patterns. This leads, in some instances, to them becoming sedentary and more vulnerable to infection from diseases like trypanosomiasis and malaria. This research uses modeling to predict where the hotspots of infection currently occur and how they will change over time and place. Culturally relevant innovations will be introduced for adaptation and uptake by communities. The result should be new control measures and a cohort of East Africans trained in these trans-disciplinary approaches.
4. Human African trypanosomiasis: alleviating the effects of climate change through understanding human-vector-parasite interactions
Principal investigator: John Hargrove, South African Centre of Excellence in Epidemiological Modeling and Analysis, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
Marginalised people in remote areas are the focus of this research conducted by institutions from South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania, which looks at the impact of expanding agricultural development, climate change, and tsetse fly distribution. The researchers combine work in sociology, climatology, parasitology, entomology and data analysis and modeling to identify affordable, effective, and sustainable means to address the issues. A limited application of insecticide to cattle will be tested, as well as attitudes of rural communities to this and other methods of trypanosomiasis control. Local expertise will be developed in all topics studied.
5. Vulnerability and resilience to malaria and schistosomiasis in northern and southern fringes of the Sahelian belt in the context of climate change
Principal investigator: Brama Koné, Université de Bouaké and Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques, Côte d’Ivoire
This project is assessing the impact of climate changes resulting from developmental projects such as the dams which were built to irrigate land in areas of drought ̶ on the river Bandaman in Korhogo (Northern Côte d'Ivoire) and on the river Senegal, near the city of Kaédi (Southern Mauritania). These dams increased agricultural production but have also led to an increased risk of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and schistosomiasis. The research is using a participatory approach that includes engagement of communities, local leaders, and decision makers in working with researchers to identify the socio-economic determinants and health effects of vulnerabilities to disease. This research project is expected to contribute to the development and/or improvement of a community participation approach, relevant tools and appropriate coping strategies to the aggravating effects of climate change on the transmission of malaria and schistosomiasis in the cities of Korhogo (in Côte d’Ivoire) and Kaédi (in Mauritania).
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