Wednesday, 17 April, 2024
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Experts link Malawi scabies outbreak to climate crisis

Months after a cholera outbreak killed more than 1 800 people and affected nearly 60 000 in Malawi, the country is fighting a resurgence of the highly infectious skin disease, scabies – which experts suggest is linked to the climate crisis.

George Mbotwa, spokesperson for Nsanje District Hospital, said the facility was struggling to cope with the influx of cases, reports The Guardian. “We registered 4 000 cases across the district and are still screening. The challenge is we do not have enough medicine to treat the disease. However, we are relying on partnerships with other organisations for help.

In Mzuzu, Mzimba North District Health Office spokesperson Lovemore Kawayi said about 152 cases had been registered and an awareness campaign was in place to contain the spread of the disease.

Health campaigners believe the outbreak could be directly linked to the climate crisis, saying the current heatwave, high humidity and water shortages countrywide are making people more vulnerable to disease outbreaks.

Public health expert Maziko Matemba said Malawi needed to do more to address the impact of the climate crisis on health.

“Looking at the scabies cases, I believe that could be as a result of climate change. Climate change and health are very critical … in terms of climate change negotiations, we need to look at the impacts on people’s health to ensure we try as much as possible to avoid these conditions.”

WaterAid Malawi said one in three people (about 5.6m) in the country do not have access to clean water. About 3 100 children under five die every year from diarrhoea caused by poor sanitation, it said.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth assessment report said climate risks are appearing faster than previously expected, and 3.6bn people live in areas already highly affected by climate change.

Despite contributing minimally to global emissions, low-income countries and small island developing states endure the harshest health impacts. In vulnerable regions, the death rate from extreme weather events in the past decade was 15 times higher than in less vulnerable ones.


The Guardian article – Malawi battles outbreak of scabies that health experts link to climate crisis (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Leading health journals plead for climate change help in Africa


Malawi wins fight against trachoma – and about to eliminate river blindness


Mass drug administration reduces scabies cases





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