International Scientists To Discuss Climate, Health Data Sharing At Conference In Ethiopia

Scientists will gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, beginning Monday for a workshop that aims to address climate and health issues, VOA News reports (Phillips, 3/31).

The workshop – which is being convened by the Ethiopian Climate and Health Working Group, along with a steering committee comprised of the African Climate Policy Center, WHO, UNDP, the U.K. Met Office, Exeter University and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) – is a follow-up to a meeting in Bamako, Mali, in 1999, according to an online brochure for the “10 Years On” workshop (undated).

A goal of the workshop is to identify ways to share information about climate and health. “The African continent is dotted with weather stations busy collecting data on rainfall, temperature wind conditions, and so forth. When this meteorological information is widely shared, it helps government policymakers and health professionals predict, prevent or mitigate weather-influenced diseases such as malaria, meningitis and plague,” VOA News writes. But the data “is not being widely shared in Africa, mainly because of the prohibitive costs of acquiring and sharing it.”   

The article highlights the work of IRI epidemiologist Judy Omumbo, who will present “policymakers with case studies and other empirical evidence that show how sharing climate data can help mitigate epidemics.”

The goal of the meeting is to bring together policymakers and health representatives to examine the problems with, gaps in data information for, and solutions to climate issues, Omumbo said, adding, “If you do not address climate, then we cannot address the whole development issue as well. For me, development is empowering people to be able to do for themselves” (3/31).

Climate Change’s Impact On Malaria

Scientific American published an excerpt from the book, “Changing Planet, Changing Health.” The excerpt focuses on how “warming as a result of climate change” in East Africa “is paving the way for the spread of malaria.” It highlights the story of Elena Githeko, a young girl who contracted malaria. The malaria case in Bitheko’s home in the “foothills of Mount Kenya … was remarkable. … Despite being just 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the equator, Karatina sits in Mount Kenya’s foothills at an altitude of 1,600 meters (almost a mile), high enough to have a distinctly cooler climate than the low­lying tropical areas of the country,” according to the book. “A 1970 national atlas had deemed the region ‘malaria­free'” (Epstein/Ferber, 4/1).

In a related story, ABC News reports, “Malaria already kills a million people a year and now, researchers fear, climate change could make the problem even worse. … Around the world, climate change is impacting human health – from recent floods in India, Nepal and Bangladesh that have caused widespread waterborne disease that the U.N. attributes to global warming, to malaria-infected mosquitoes migrating to increasingly high elevations in the mountains of Africa” (Halperin, 4/1).

In related news, the Seattle Times reports on the recent Pacific Northwest Global Donors Conference, which focused on the “effects of a changing climate on agriculture, food and public health” around the world (Heim, 4/2).

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