Climate change may hit Bhutan’s malaria eradication efforts

While Bhutan has set 2025 as deadline to eradicate malaria from the Himalayan country, the climate change has resulted in rise of insects, pests and vectors including mosquitoes. The country has witnessed mosquitoes in its Lunana tourist resort that stands at an altitude of 4800 meters above sea level

RH Staff

January 13

The climate change may play spoilsport in Bhutan’s ambitious plan to eliminate malaria by the end of 2025 as the country has seen a rise in insects, pests ad vectors, says a new research paper.

The paper ‘Climate Change an its implications on health in Bhutan’ says the mosquitoes have now been sighted in Lunana area of the country that stands an altitude of 4800 meters above sea.

“While Bhutan currently enjoys a relatively better state of environment compared to its neighbouring countries, the consequences of climate change transcend national boundaries,” says the research paper published in Bhutan Health Journal. “There  are  cross-over  effects  and  spill over  as the  world shares one ecosphere. Warming of climate is one pervasive phenomenon which has particular consequences on the emergence or re-emergence of infectious diseases”. 

The research paper written by Thinley Dorji, Don Eliseo and Lucero-Prisn says that snow cover in the country has retreated and mosquitoes can be seen at higher altitudes now that could “seriously” hamper the efforts to eradicate malaria from the Himalayan country. 

“In fact, the country has witnessed a northward movement of insects, pests and vectors. While the snow cover has retreated, mosquitoes have now been sighted in Lunana, which is at an elevation of 4800 metres above sea level,” the research paper says. “In an analysis of dengue epidemic in April – December  2019  among  5935  confirmed  cases  involving  19 of  the 20  districts,  dengue  was  reported  in  38  newly  affected sub-districts. It is possible that climate change lengthened the transmission season of Aedes mosquitoes during that epidemic. Such unchecked spread of mosquitoes is a concern not only for outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya at high altitudes, but it may seriously compromise malaria elimination efforts in the country”. 

The research paper says that in 2022, July was reported as the hottest month in the last 25 years with temperatures 2.5 degrees Celsius higher than the average. “This was associated with an outbreak of the Nairobi fly in the Himalayan foothills in north-eastern India, Nepal, and Bhutan,” says the paper. “The warmer climates are linked to water-borne illnesses. The summer months are prone to other gastrointestinal illnesses”.

While Bhutan has revised its malaria eradication deadlines several times in the past – including in 2018 and 2020 – it has now set an ambitious deadline of 2025 to eliminate the disease from the Himalayan country. 

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