Health agencies in Africa need to start consulting seasonal weather forecasts to help prepare for malaria epidemics and ensure outbreaks are spotted early and curbed before they become severe, a malaria expert said.
Rising temperatures, floods and droughts can cause major epidemics in areas not usually affected by malaria, particularly as people may lack immunity to the disease and are therefore more likely to fall ill or even die, said Tarekegn Abeku, senior technical specialist at international non-profit Malaria Consortium.
Weather forecasts are vital to help health agencies know where to increase vigilance "so that if there is an outbreak you can take action immediately", he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from his London office.
Forecasters are getting better at predicting these threatening weather patterns - sometimes months in advance - as they become more frequent and more severe in many countries as the climate changes.
But currently most health agencies in Africa have "no organized way of looking at information related to climate change", said Abeku.