The Heat Is Online

Malaria Seen Quadrupling in South Africa

South Africa Says Climate Change Will See Malaria Soar, May 6, 2005

JOHANNESBURG - Climate change will quadruple the number of South Africans at risk from malaria by 2020, bringing the mosquito-borne disease south towards the country's commercial heartland, a minister said on Thursday.

Mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite are currently only found near South Africa's northern borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe, but Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said this was likely to change.

"Climate change could lead to provinces like Mpumalanga, Limpopo, the North West, KwaZulu-Natal and even Gauteng becoming malaria zones by 2050," he said in comments to a Cape Town press briefing.

Gauteng contains both the capital Pretoria and commercial hub Johannesburg, which along with Cape Town are among only a handful of African urban centres free from a disease that kills more than a million people a year worldwide, mostly children.

"Too often climate change is regarded as someone else's problem," van Schalkwyk said. "The simple truth ... is that climate change is everyone's problem."

The number of South Africans at "high risk" from malaria will have quadrupled by 2020 due to climate change, van Schalkwyk said, at a cost to South Africa of between 0.1 and 0.2 percent of GDP.

He had no current figure for malaria infection rates.

Global warming would also drive plant and animal species in South Africa to extinction, hitting tourism, while water shortages would hit subsistence agriculture and increase migration to already overpopulated city townships.

"In short, climate change will intensify the effects of poverty though losses of biodiversity, agriculture, health and almost every sector of society," he said. "In a developing country like South Africa, this means that our poorest communities will be worst hit by the impacts of climate change."

Van Schalkwyk said South Africa would continue to press internationally for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as aiming to reduce its own energy demands by 12 percent by 2015 through more efficient use of power.