Piloting Climate Change Adaptation to Protect Human Health in Kenya
As part of the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNDP, global project on public health adaptation to climate change, the "Piloting Climate Change Adaptation to Protect Human Health in Kenya" is working to strengthen national focus and adaptive capacity to prevent epidemic highland malaria.
The Kenya project will provide training and development of tools to prepare malaria control programs to understand the influence of climate change and variability on the transmission risks of malaria in focalised areas.
Kenya is one of seven countries taking part in this Global Pilot. The seven countries, Barbados, Bhutan, China, Fiji, Jordan, Kenya and Uzbekistan, together represent four distinct environments (Highlands, Small Islands, Arid Countries and Urban environments,) and their related health risks.
The objective of this first global project on public health adaptation to climate change is to “increase adaptive capacity of national health system institutions, including field practitioners, to respond to climate-sensitive health risks”. This will contribute to the broader goal of ensuring that “Health sectors are able to cope with health risks resulting from climate change, including variability”.
The pilot project will provide training and development of tools to prepare malaria control programs to understand the influence of climate change and variability on the transmission risks of malaria in focalised areas. A model for predicting highland malaria was developed in 2006 and validated with previously observed malaria epidemics. It indicated a very high utility in predicting malaria epidemics three months in advance at areas higher than 1800 m. This project aims to take the model to the next step by operationally validating it and developing better tools for malaria forecasting to support decision-making on public health interventions that help prevent epidemics. To be able to do this effectively the following areas of adaptive capacity development will the specifically targeted in the project:
- Improved use of weather forecasting - Forecasting through global weather networks can provide the data needed to predict malaria epidemics. Currently there is limited access to short-term and long-term health specific weather information at the community, district and national levels.
- Improved disease prediction capacity - The development of an Early Warning System will significantly improve preparedness for malaria epidemics, despite current deficiencies in the quality of routinely collected health data.
- Improved epidemic preparedness, and disease detection - Districts have the capacity to develop plans for epidemic preparedness and response, however timely availability of the required resources has been a challenge. Most districts have adequate data to calculate threshold levels for existing epidemic detection only.
- Improved outbreak response - Many barriers to effective response currently exist and will be addressed in the project.
Health Concerns and Vulnerability to Climate Change
Malaria has always existed in Kenya, however in the past, the higher altitudes of the highlands region limited highland malaria transmission to seasonal outbreaks, with considerable year-to-year variation.
Climate change is projected to make malaria control more difficult in many areas of Kenya. In areas where malaria already occurs, transmission intensity is expected to increase along with the length of the transmission season. It is also expected that malaria will spread into new locations, particularly the higher altitudes of the highlands, where its prevalence is not currently actively monitored or forecasted. Communities living at altitudes above 1,100 meters are more vulnerable to malaria epidemics due to lack of immunity, lack of preparedness, climate variability and other factors.
Approximately 13 to 20 million Kenyans are at risk of malaria, with the percentage at risk increasing as climate change facilitates the movement of the malaria vector up the highlands.
Studies into the affect of climate change on health in Kenya also reported increases in acute respiratory infections for ASAL areas; emergence and re-emergence of Rift Valley fever; leishmaniasis and malnutrition. Floods, occasional outbreaks of waterborne diseases e.g. cholera, dysentery and typhoid have been reported in lowland areas.
Key Results and Outputs
The most significant benefit envisioned to arise from this project is the reduction in the burden of highland malaria epidemics. Additional benefits include:
- Increased capacity of health actors to climate sensitive diseases.
- Harmonized management structures across all provisions provided by the Annual Operational Plans (AOPs)
- Additional Implementation of malaria epidemic prevention measures through the National Malaria Strategy.
- Strengthening partnerships, including: meteorological department provision of forecasting data to the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI).
- Improved interactions between health officers and stakeholders and sharing of resources and reduction in duplication of tasks within a district.
- Climate change and health early warning and planning systems
- Institutional and technical capacity to manage climate change health risks
- Demonstration Measures to reduce vulnerability
- Regional Cooperation to address climate change health risks
Outcome 1: Climate-sensitive health risks are identified with sufficient lead-time for effective response
- Climate-sensitive health risk data are reported in timely and reliable manner to disease control agencies.
- Climate data are reported in timely and reliable manner to disease control agencies.
- Climate change-induced changes and drivers of health-risks are determined.
Outcome 2: Capacity of health sector institutions to respond to climate-sensitive health risks will be improved
- Clarified and harmonized institutional mandates and procedures to respond to climate risks to public health.
- Training syllabus and long-term support mechanisms for community and national level health protection from climate change developed.
Outcome 3: Disease prevention measures piloted in areas of heightened health risk due to climate change
- Advance planning of responses for pilot regions.
- Preventative interventions applied on the basis of plan, in response to warning system information.