Dr Vincent Pagiwa

Dr Vincent Pagiwa

Botswana

University of Botswana

Okavango Research Institute

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Work and Research

Fields Of Expertise

Public Health

TARGETING MALARIA IN THE OKAVANGO DELTA

Vector-borne diseases like malaria impose a heavy burden on human health, especially on vulnerable populations like those in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Despite all efforts globally over the past decade, an estimated 241 million cases of the disease and some 627 000 malaria-related deaths were reported by the World Health Organization in 2020. Half of the world population is vulnerable to malaria, with sub-Saharan African countries bearing the highest risk.

 

Although Botswana has seen a remarkable decline in confirmed cases, the current malaria control successes and elimination targets are threatened by several factors – including climate change. A key variable for determining the range of the transmission of the disease in a swampy area like the Okavango Delta is an increase in temperature. Temperatures above the optimal range of 25-27 degrees Celsius risk the breeding of mosquitos carrying malaria parasites in places previously “clean”. This may result in an increase in malaria cases in the region – which is a popular tourist destination.

Another boost in the expansion of malaria-prone areas comes from social and economic pressures resulting from population growth, population migrations, drug and pesticide resistance and deterioration of health service delivery systems.

 

So far vulnerability assessments in the area have focused on the biophysical influences of malaria transmission but overlooked the influence of socio-economic factors and health system adaptive capacity to climate change. There is also a need to assess household and health system factors exposing communities and individuals to malaria infections.

 

Dr Vincent Pagiwa plans to tackle just this issue in his FAR-LeaF research project, called Climate change and malaria variability in the Okavango region of Botswana: A social vulnerability and adaptive capacity assessment.

 

His objectives are to identify socioeconomic factors associated with malaria transmission in his target region; to measure the variability of malaria about these socio-economic exposures, and to determine the health system’s adaptive capacity to climate change.

 

A vulnerability assessment helps researchers understand the people and places that are most susceptible to malaria associated with climate-related exposures. With this data, we will be able to aid policymakers in targeting interventions and the strategic allocation of resources to reduce the malaria burden in Okavango and other regions newly prone to the disease in Botswana.

 

Dr Pagiwa will tap a series of data sources including health registries, the population census register, self-administered KAP surveys, key policy documents and in-depth interviews with key informants to create a cumulative vulnerability score for the geographic units within his target area.

 

A social vulnerability and adaptive capacity assessment using an overlay analysis approach will identify communities and places susceptible to climate-sensitive malaria transmission. By identifying where social vulnerabilities exist, the Ministry of Health and Wellness can develop health interventions and health adaptation strategies that are tailored specifically to the Okavango region and help identify communities and individuals that were not previously considered to be susceptible to malaria.

 

As part of his project, a policy brief will be drafted and presented to the relevant malaria control and elimination stakeholders in Botswana.