Facing an unusually heavy rainy season, an ongoing cholera outbreak and growing concern about the spread of malaria and other diseases, the Government of Mozambique is turning to USAID for strategies to address climate and weather risks in health sector decisions.
“We have limited data, but we think climate change is one of the most important drivers of vector- and waterborne diseases in Mozambique,” said Dr. Eduardo Samo Gudo, Director of Science at Mozambique’s National Institute of Health, the research arm of Mozambique’s Health Ministry.
“This year is one of the worst in memory for cholera outbreaks. In addition, mosquito-borne diseases, like malaria, dengue and chikungunya, are becoming bigger problems than they were in the past.”
Climate and weather variability can increase disease risk, particularly for vector- and waterborne diseases. This can have major impacts in countries such as Mozambique, which already face serious health-related challenges.
Cholera outbreaks in Mozambique, for example, correlate with rainfall events and rising temperatures. And malaria, which is already responsible for 26 percent of the country’s hospital deaths, is likely to spread to higher elevations due to warming, putting new populations at risk.
“We are now seeing more days with extreme temperatures, like 42°C or 43°C, than we have in the past,” said Dr. Samo Gudo. “In addition, climate change also likely worsens nutrition.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change called climate change a “threat multiplier” for health issues in its landmark 2014 report on human health.
In 2013, Mozambique’s National Health Institute and USAID staff began discussing how to better use information about climate impacts on water and vector-borne diseases to strengthen the Government of Mozambique’s health sector decisions.
Today, through the ATLAS Project, USAID is helping the Health Institute to: 1) develop the evidence base for links between climate change and human health in Mozambique, 2) train health professionals on those links, and 3) improve strategic planning to integrate climate considerations into health-sensitive programs.
At the moment, Dr. Samo Gudo is operationalizing a new national climate and health observatory that will use climate and weather data to predict disease outbreaks, raise awareness of climate and weather impacts on health, and encourage government and public discourse on climate-sensitive health issues.
The work in Mozambique may be a useful model for other governments in Sub-Saharan Africa, where integrating health and climate issues brings similar challenges, such as:
- Difficulty working across ministries and sectors that have not traditionally worked together;
- Lack of climate models or observations at spatial scales that are detailed enough to support health sector decisions; and
- Lack of knowledge about climate change impacts on health.
Working together, Mozambique and USAID are finding ways to overcome these challenges and limit the negative impacts of climate change on human health.
Climatelinks is a global knowledge portal for USAID staff, implementing partners, and the broader community working at the intersection of climate change and international development. The portal curates and archives technical guidance and knowledge related to USAID’s work to help countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.