In the future, if malaria is not controlled, what will happen?
This is actually a really important question. Malaria already kills more than one million people each year, with probably around 3.3 billion people at risk from infection. This number will just increase as the world’s population grows, unless successful control measures are implemented.
Moreover, climate change will likely change the areas which are affected by malaria. Certainly, as temperate areas, such as the Mediterranean and the southern USA, get warmer due to climate change, there will be more risk of greater malaria transmission in these regions. Similarly, high altitude areas in tropical regions, which currently have low or no malaria transmission, may find that transmission of malaria becomes possible and even frequent. This may be the case for some of Africa’s major cities, such as Nairobi and Johannesburg, which are currently at a high enough altitude to limit high malaria transmission, but may be negatively affected by climate change with respect to malaria.
Similarly, there are some regions in the world which are currently too dry during parts of the year to allow the larvae of malaria mosquitoes to develop; this results in only seasonal transmission of malaria, after the rains. If climate change affects the patterns or the amount of rain that falls in these areas, transmission risk of malaria will also change, and perhaps in unpredictable ways.
On the other hand, there may be some areas which become more dry with the onset of climate change. These areas may see reduced malaria transmission, but increases in other problems, such as lack of water to grow crops and therefore higher levels of food insecurity and malnutrition.
Therefore, overall it is expected that without control measures, the number of cases of malaria worldwide will continue to increase. As such, it is crucial that we all work together to implement successful measures for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria, and especially in the countries, such as in sub-Saharan Africa, where the burden of the disease is the greatest.