Web-based climate information resources for malaria control in Africa
International Research Institute for Climate and Society, The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Lamont Campus, 61 Route 9W, Palisades, New York 10964, USA
Malaria Journal 2006, 5:38 doi:10.1186/1475-2875-5-38Published: 11 May 2006
Malaria remains a major public health threat to more than 600 million Africans and its control is recognized as critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The greatest burden of malaria in Africa occurs in the endemic regions where the disease pathogen is continuously present in the community. These regions are characterized by an environment that is conducive to interactions between the Anopheles mosquito, malaria parasites and human hosts, as well as housing of generally poor quality, which offers little protection from mosquito-human contact. Epidemic malaria tends to occur along the geographical margins of endemic regions, when the equilibrium between the human, parasite and mosquito vector populations is occasionally disturbed and a sharp but temporary increase in disease incidence results. When malaria control measures are inadequate, as is the case in much of sub-Saharan Africa, the disease distribution is closely linked with seasonal patterns of the climate and local environment. In the absence of good epidemiological data on malaria distribution in Africa, climate information has long been used to develop malaria risk maps that illustrate the boundaries of 'climatic suitability for endemic transmission.' The best known of these are produced by the Pan-African-based MARA Collaboration. This paper describes the development of additional malaria suitability maps which have been produced in an online, interactive format to enable temporal information (i.e., seasonality of climate conditions) to be queried and displayed along with spatial information. These maps and the seasonal information that they contain should be useful to the malaria control and health service communities for their planning and operational activities.