Washington, January 10 : Medical experts and environmentalists in Kenya blame climate change for fuelling malaria in the country.
Warmer temperatures and variations in rainfall patterns are responsible for the incidences of malaria in areas where they were never expected, they say.
"We are now finding malaria in places that we did not expect to find it, particularly the highland regions that used to be too cool for malaria," National Geographic quoted Dorothy Memusi, deputy director of the Malaria Division in Kenya's Ministry of Health, as saying.
In 2004, an international team of researchers had reported that changes in temperature could affect the development and survival of malaria parasites and the mosquitoes that carry them.
The study also found that rainfall influenced the availability of mosquito habitats and the size of mosquito populations.
Now, Shem Wandiga, professor of chemistry at University of Nairobi, has studied the association between climate and malaria.
According to him, it was in the 1920s that malaria epidemics first hit Kenya's highlands, but the frequency of outbreaks in the region has been more pronounced during the last two decades.
"The best climate conditions for malaria are a long rainy season that is warm and wet, followed by a dry season that is not too hot, followed by a hot and wet short rainy season. Two to three months after that pattern, you see the onset of a malaria epidemic," Wandiga said.
He conceded that the Kenyan highlands had not suffered an epidemic in the last three years because weather conditions had not been conducive to mosquito propagation.
He, however, said that climate change would continue to show health effects in the region.
"We expect the frequency of diseases to increase and hence the need for early warning and early detection systems," Wandiga said.
"We need to improve health delivery services to communities to cope with these sudden increases," he added.