QweCI and HEALTHY FUTURES project to host symposium on links between climate, VBDs

The HEALTHY FUTURES (Health, environmental change and adaptive capacity) and QWeCI (Quantifying Quantifying Weather and Climate Impacts on Health in Developing Countries) projects will jointly host a symposium on links between climate and vector-borne diseases (VBDs) at the upcoming 4th East African Community Health and Scientific Conference, scheduled for 27th-29th March 2013 in Kigali, Rwanda. The Symposium will bring together researchers at the cutting edge of research in understanding the relationships between health and environment and, in particular, links between climate and VBDs in Africa.

Motivated by the knowledge that each year an estimated 2.4 million environmental health-related deaths in Africa are avoidable, and that the effects of environmental change, such as climate change, will be felt most acutely by the poorest members of society, both projects strive to further understand the relationship between climate and health in Africa. By focusing primarily on the drivers for VBDs, the projects aim to assist in making projections of future outbreaks and to how such events should be managed. Both projects are funded through the Environment and Health component of the EC Seventh Framework Programme and involve several eastern Africa-based partners.

HEALTHY FUTURES project coordinator Prof. David Taylor stated, in the announcement of the call for abstracts for the Symposium, that 'Climate is a component of environment. Relationships between climate and health in Africa, and indeed in many parts of the world, remain poorly studied and are often overlooked. This is despite the fact that readily accessible, high quality climate data can be extremely useful to health planners, as they can help understand current distributions of some diseases - notably those involving a biological vector - and are fundamental to the accurate forecasting of future outbreaks. Moreover, an understanding of links between climate, societal changes and health can help in the prediction, and costing, of the health impacts of climate change'.

Additionally, HEALTHY FUTURES in collaboration with the CGIAR program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), held a stakeholder workshop on 6th November 2012 at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) campus in Nairobi, Kenya. The purpose of the workshop was to engage with regional experts from a range of disciplines with the specific aim of looking at potential futures of VDBs in East Africa. This approach was guided by HEALTHY FUTURES' ethos of a bottom-up, end-user/stakeholder-focused approach. The participants discussed future scenarios of socio-economic development in the region and its implications for the spread and control of malaria, schistosomiasis and Rift Valley fever. The outcomes of the workshop included the development of an inventory of interventions to tackle the target diseases and decisions on the next steps forward to ensure qualitative and quantitative information will finally feed into vulnerability assessments and decision support systems.

HEALTHY FUTURES is currently developing a project database of existing and new relevant data relating to the emergence and outbreaks of its three target VBDs in the study area and drawn from a range of primary and secondary sources. It is due for completion in late 2013 and will be publicly accessible via the HEALTHY FUTURES website.

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