Climate change and vectorborne diseases
Many vulnerability assessments anticipate climate change will result in increased incidence of communicable diseases including vectorborne diseases (VBDs). VBDs are transmitted by the bites of infected mosquitoes and other insects (vectors). Their incidence is particularly dependent on climatic factors because:
- Insects have no internal control over their physiological temperatures and the ambient temperature determines their reproduction rate, biting behaviour and survival: their distribution may expand as the earth warms.
- Humidity and availability of water for breeding are also determinants of vectors' distribution, longevity and behaviour.
- The incubation period of pathogens inside vectors is temperature-dependent (and tends to decrease at warmer temperatures).
- Human behaviour is likely to be affected by climate change which will alter our interaction with vectors and the diseases they carry.
Climate-sensitive VBDs in the region
In the WHO Western Pacific Region, important VBDs that might be affected by climate change include: malaria, dengue, other arboviruses such as Japanese encephalitis, chikungunya and West Nile virus, lymphatic filariasis, plague, tick borne diseases including tick-borne encephalitis, lyme disease and rickettsioses, and schistosomiasis.
KOICA climate change and vectorborne diseases project
WHO has received generous funding from the Korean International cooperation Agency (KOICA) to address the risks of climate change on VBDs. This project aims to mitigate the risks of climate change on VBDs in Cambodia, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea with six important outcomes: (1) Increased awareness and involvement of communities and stakeholders within and beyond the health sector in actions to minimize VBD consequences due to climate change; (2) Strengthened surveillance for vector borne infections and climate change and capacity for rapid response to VBD outbreaks; (3) Strengthened capacity for vector control; (4) Strengthened capacity for effective diagnosis and treatment of VBDs; (5) Strategic information on knowledge gaps generated and utilized to better respond to climate change-induced VBDs; and (6) Strengthened country programmes and effective and efficient project management
WHO response to climate change
WHO has taken action to reduce the health risks of climate change on vulnerable population groups and urges member states to combat the effects of climate change including by:
- Developing health measures for adaptation to climate change.
- Strengthening capacity of health monitoring and minimizing the public health impacts of climate change.
- Promoting effective engagement of the health sector to reduce risks from climate change.
- Adoption of intersectoral initiatives via assessment of the health implications of other sectors' climate change policies, such as urban planning, transport, energy supply, food production and water resources.
- Advocating for decisions that provide opportunities for improving health.