Davos 2023: Climate change leads to more malaria, tuberculosis up in a recession

Participants of the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2023 are seen in a hall at Davos Congress Centre, in the Alpine resort of Davos, Switzerland, January 16, 2023. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Climate change is increasing malaria infections, the executive director of the world's biggest health fund said in Davos on Monday.

Huge surges in malaria infections followed recent floods in Pakistan and cyclones in Mozambique in 2021, said Peter Sands, the executive director of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

"Whenever you have an extreme weather event it's fairly common to have a surge of malaria," he said at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos.

The increase in extreme weather events, and the resulting large pools of standing water that attract mosquitoes, are leaving poorer populations vulnerable.

He said climate change was also changing the geography of mosquitoes. The highlands of Africa, in Kenya and Ethiopia, are now succumbing to malaria because of a shift in the low temperatures that once made the area unsustainable for mosquitoes.

Sands runs the world's largest global fund, which invests in fighting tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS in some of the poorest nations in the world.

The fund, which set a target of raising $18 billion, has so far raised $15.7 billion, the largest amount of money ever raised in global health.

Part of the shortfall, he said, was a billion dollar hit from currency fluctuations that affected donations.

Looking ahead, climate change is just one of the factors that could hamper efforts to eradicate the diseases, Sands said.

The war in Ukraine has led to a worsening of AIDS and tuberculosis. In middle income countries such as India, Pakistan and Indonesia, tuberculosis cases amongst the poorest populations are also rising.

With fears of a global recession rising, Sands said those countries would come under increased pressure.

"I think the big concern from our perspective is what happens to health budgets in the 120 or so countries we are investing."

And even within those health budgets, how much is being taken up by COVID?"

Writing by Leela de Kretser; editing by David Evans

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