Climate change migration leads to disease vulnerability, according to researchers

Maize is among the crops threatened by erratic temperatures in Ethiopia's Gondar province. Creative Commons: C. Robinson/CIMMYT, 2011

Maize is among the crops threatened by erratic temperatures in Ethiopia’s Gondar province. Creative Commons: C. Robinson/CIMMYT, 2011

Migration and disease brought on by climate change are some of the more precarious impacts looming over vulnerable communities, according to recent reports.

In Ethiopia, nearly 300,000 farmers from the country’s province of Gondar are relocating every year as erratic weather patterns threaten the livelihoods of farmers. Irregular rainfall, failing crops, and job instability are some of the changes driving many farmers away from their homes in a search for more fertile ground closer to the Sudanese border. Recent IPCC reports show that agricultural systems in Africa will increasingly be vulnerable to climate change if not tackled soon. Longer droughts, one of the threats predicted by the IPCC, are also among the climate impacts threatening genetic biodiversity in Ethiopia — a crucial component to future food security, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The uptick in inter-regional migration is also responsible for an increased prevalence of disease, according to researchers. As more farmers flee their homes, researchers believe that the loneliness of being away from families leaves them vulnerable to contract HIV.

Many migrants are also moving towards areas where sandflies are rampant, leaving them susceptible to leismaniasis. This vector-borne disease, which is also known as kalaazar, is the world’s second leading parasitic killer and is believed to be influenced by climate change.

“Global warming affects the distribution and growth of vectors,” said Daniel Argaw Dagne, Technical Counterpart for the leishmaniasis control programme at the World Health Organization.

Farmers in the area are also prone to wear less clothing due to the warmer temperatures, and as a result, are more likely to be bitten by disease-carrying insects.

Throughout the continent, diseases are being been linked with climate instability and changing landscapes, with some even drawing connections between global warming and West Africa’s recent surge in ebola cases.

As climate-induced migration becomes increasingly prevalent in Africa and around the world, experts believe that quicker access to healthcare solutions is crucial to community resilience throughout this period of crisis.

“Lack of water, hygiene and energy sources in rural healthcare is a big problem because kalaazar requires refrigeration or cold storage for some of the diagnostics,” said Hasrat Hailu Mekuria of Addis Ababa University, who is a proponent of mobile healthcare facilities for Ethiopia’s rural communities.

Following last month’s Fourth Annual Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa, as well as the continent’s recent endorsement of a sustainability framework, many community advocates are hoping to mitigate the domino effect of climate impacts by forging a global climate agreement in Paris that keeps “Africa in mind.”


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