Satellites look at the spread of malaria

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Source: Network 24, Article: Elise Tempelhoff

The patterns of the spread of malaria are changing.
It is possible that the deadly disease could turn up in unusual places in South Africa, Dr. Jane Olwoch, managing director of the South African National Space Agency (Sansa), said at a workshop on remote sensing and malaria at the University of Pretoria.
The French Space Agency and the University of Pretoria’s Department of Health Sciences on Monday agreed to monitor the spread of malaria in a changing climate in Sub-Saharan Africa through the use of satellite technology.
With space technology, early warning systems can be developed, Olwoch said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 207 million people contracted malaria in 2012.
Of that number, 627 000 died. 90% of those who died were from Sub-Saharan Africa and 77% of the victims were children younger than five years.
More than 10% of South Africa’s population of nearly 54 million lives in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal where malaria is endemic.
Jean-Marc Châtaignier, Director General of the French Institute of Research for Development, said very little information is available regarding how climate change will affect South Africa and other Sub-Saharan countries.
With satellite technology, research and predictions about what can be expected in South Africa can be taken up in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Châtaignier said climate change has serious consequences for Africa but the information needed so people know what to expect doesn’t exist.
The transfer of this advanced technology will assist South Africa and the rest of the inhabitants of Sub-Saharan Africa to know what the region will look like in 2020 and 2030.
He said the research community will have to inform South Africans of what to expect. It cannot be left to politicians because they have a short-term vision of about five years.
“We are working here with our sights on the long-term,” he said.
Prof. Tiaan de Jager, Director of the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Sustainable Malaria Control, said that if researchers know what the patterns of the spread of malaria is, then health workers can be informed in advance to prevent deaths.