Loss of forest cover due to human activities leads to increase in malaria cases: Study

Researchers may have found one of the reasons for the increasing cases of malaria in endemic countries – deforestation. Forests are a substantial part of the country and have their own role to play. They are essential for the sustenance of human life, but unfortunately, it is humans who are to blame for their deterioration. Human activities are gradually driving forests towards their downfall, thereby causing problems that will ultimately affect us too. The rapid increase in the spread of malaria is one such problem, according to researchers, who studied 67 less-developed, malaria-endemic countries. Nearly 130 million hectares of forest – an area almost equivalent in size to South Africa – have been lost since 1990, according to a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (UN). Deforestation is not a natural phenomenon, but rather results predominantly from human activities, or anthropogenically, researchers said. Researchers from Lehigh University in the US found that deforestation can impact malaria prevalence by several mechanisms, including increasing the amount of sunlight and standing water in some areas. In general, increasing standing water and sunlight is favourable for most species of Anopheles mosquitoes which are the key vector of malaria transmission, researchers said. “Human-induced changes to the natural environment can have a powerful impact on malaria rates,” said Kelly Austin from Lehigh University. Researchers build upon evidence that patterns in climate change, deforestation, and other human-induced changes to the natural environment are amplifying malaria transmission.

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