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Deforestation Credited for Malaria Resurgence in Peru
The Guardian recently published an article highlighting several studies from last year that have linked malaria with deforestation, and have concluded that deforestation and climate change are behind the recent and dramatic increase in malaria cases in Peru. Although malaria was almost eradicated in Peru 40 years ago, today there are over 64,000 cases, and at least half of these cases are people living in the Amazonian region of the country, where access to healthcare is limited.
According to the article, "Peruvian researchers found that frontier areas cleared of trees for logging, settlements, roads, farming or mining were far more likely to harbour malaria-carrying mosquitoes. In one Peruvian study, researchers said the biting rate of mosquitos in deforested areas was nearly 300 times greater than in virgin forests. Increases in human density had no impact on biting rates."
Deforestation and the accompanying roads and settlements create opportunities for stagnant water to become an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. Climate change has also played a role by altering off-season rain patterns. The number of infected persons is higher in areas where logging is occurring, and loggers themselves are the mosquitoes' main victims. Furthermore, because this logging is sometimes illegal, loggers are hesitant to seek treatment, states Dr. Hugo Rodriguez of the Andean Health Organization. Severe poverty in the region forces locals to turn to logging, sending them into areas where "malaria is prevalent, without taking any precautions, and for meager wages."
Peruvian officials are concerned by the outbreak and are doing their best to control it by distributing mosquito nets and trying to increase awareness about the disease. However, many Amazonian villages are remote or inaccessible, making it difficult for those infected to seek treatment. Villagers attest to the severity of the outbreak, reporting that new cases are diagnosed daily.
Refer to our blog from October 17th for more information on the relationship between forests and health.
Posted By Alexandra O'Brien at 4:01pm on November 08, 2007
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