Scientists warn of urban malaria in Africa and South East Asia

Scientists at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine are alerting the world to what they see as a new emerging tropical disease - that of urban malaria in Africa and South East Asia.

hey and other experts from around the globe will be addressing the issue at a conference to be held in Pretoria, South Africa from December 2nd - 4th, 2004, the first ever conference to be held on this increasing health risk.

Said Dr Guy Barnish, senior lecturer in parasitology at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine: “We are issuing a warning that urban malaria is a new, emerging tropical disease. In the past, malaria has generally been associated with swampy, rural areas. When people in cities went down with malaria it was thought that they had contracted it by going into rural areas. But our research in West Africa has produced more and more evidence to show that malaria is now actually being transmitted in cities”.

The problem is thought to stem from the fact that more vegetables and crops are being grown within city boundaries in order to feed the rapidly increasing number of people now moving to cities. The United Nations predicts that by 2025, about 804 million people will live in African urban areas.

2There have always been 'nuisance' mosquitoes in cities,” explained Dr Barnish. “But by growing vegetables and crops, perhaps for sale, and watering them, people are inadvertently creating a suitable habitat for the much more deadly, malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquito which is settling there. Our research found that in one community in Accra, Ghana, for example, up to thirty per cent of children under five had malaria.2

The purpose of the Pretoria workshop, organised by the School as part of the Malaria Knowledge Programme, is to develop an evidence-based approach for evaluating and controlling urban malaria, to review and define the impact of malaria among urban communities and to develop a strategy for implementing effective public health interventions in clearly-defined malaria endemic settings.

As part of its aim to improve malaria control for the poorest, the Malaria Knowledge Programme has collaborated with the International Water Management Institute (IWMA) and the Systemwide Initiative on Malaria and Agriculture (SIMA) to develop methodologies to investigate the impact of urban agriculture on malaria transmission.

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