Tanzania has made significant progress in the fight against malaria over the last 20 years thanks to bed nets, insecticides, and a vaccine, but new trends in the weather in East Africa seem to indicate there is a new threat to progress: climate change.

In 2021, Tanzania launched a five-year plan that aims to reduce malaria prevalence in children under 5 to less than 3.5%.

Generally, the country has a tropical climate. But from the vast Lake Victoria to the flanks of the Rift Valley, Tanzania’s features create a wide variety of climates from one region to another. For instance, the coastal lowlands regions are warm and humid, with temperatures ranging from 17 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees Celsius through most of the year. Meanwhile, the basins around Lakes Victoria (Northwest Tanzania), Tanganyika (West Tanzania), and Nyasa (South Tanzania) have relatively high temperatures, humidity, and heavier rainfall.

“The ecological settings influence malaria transmission and climate change, with more rains and humidity, might lead to increased malaria parasite transmission,” Tanzania’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Aifello Sichwale told Global Citizen.

Malaria is spread when a female Anopheles mosquito sucks the blood of a person who has been infected with the microscopic organism plasmodium, and then feeds on the blood of an uninfected person — introducing the organism to their bloodstream. Once the organism is in the bloodstream, it can cause malaria. Consequently, malaria prevalence is closely tied to the prevalence of the mosquitoes carrying the disease from person to person.

The common symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, shaking chills, and tiredness. Quite often, a patient may develop muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting. If not treated immediately, the disease may result in kidney failure, seizures, and even death.

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2020 World Malaria Report, by 2019 there were more than 229 million cases of malaria globally, with over 90% of them occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. While Tanzania contributed only 3% of the malaria cases in Africa, it represented 5% of all malaria deaths globally — the highest percentage of any single country.

Read the full article about progress on malaria by Sammy Awami at Global Citizen.