Study correlates African malaria cases with location of large dams

Rings of a malaria infected sample of blood | Courtesy of the CDC
A recent study, completed by a team including researchers from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), for the first time correlated cases of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa with the location of large dams in the region.
   
The study evaluated 1,268 dams in sub-Saharan Africa with approximately two-thirds located within areas with high malaria infection rates. Researchers made comparisons of the differences of malaria cases in communities that were close to a dam and reservoir, and those that were farther away.
   
“Our study showed that the population at risk of malaria around dams is at least four times greater than previously estimated,” Solomon Kibret, lead author and biologist at the University of New England in Australia, said.
   
The findings were in line with previous studies done at specific dams in Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia.

The researchers also predicted that the expected construction of 78 major new dams in sub-Saharan Africa over the next few years will lead to an additional 56,000 malaria cases annually.

Many countries in Africa are pursuing dam development in order to improve economic growth and to secure greater quantities of water and water security.

“Dams are an important option for governments anxious to develop,” Matthew McCartney, co-author and representative of IWMI. “But it is unethical that people living close to them pay the price of that development through increased suffering and, possibly in extreme cases, loss of life due to disease.”

The study's findings were published in this month's issue of the Malaria Journal. It was conducted as part of a research project on water, land and ecosystems conducted by the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research.

Organizations in this story

International Water Management Institute Sunil Mawatha Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, WP

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