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Climate prediction of El Nino malaria epidemics in north-west Tanzania

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A. E. Jones
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This paper, published in the Malaria Journal examines the relationship between climate and malaria incidence in Kagera in northwest Tanzania, with the aim of determining whether seasonal weather forecasts may assist in predicting malaria epidemics. The study uses malaria and climatic data collected during two annual malaria seasons over a period of ten years from 1990. It finds that malaria incidence is positively correlated with rainfall during the first season (October-March). For the second season (April-September) high malaria incidence was associated with increased rainfall, but also with high maximum temperature during the first rainy season. The paper also finds that 1998 malaria epidemic was associated with excessive rainfall along with above average maximum temperatures, caused by the El Nino effect. Despite this, the underlying relationship between rainfall and malaria in this location is too complicated to be revealed by this type of analysis. The authors conclude that there is potential for a seasonal forecasting system in the development of a malaria early warning system in Kagera region. This research also points towards the need for downscaled rainfall forecasts to become available, particularly in regions of known predictability such as East Africa.