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Climate Change in Africa: Voices From Kenya and Diaspora

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya, Environment, Health, Migration & Immigration

Part of the discussion about Climate change in Africa has been covered by The Economist [1], NPR [2]and other publications. On this inaugural post of environment news we read and hear from two voices, one on the continent of Africa through the blog ‘Kenvironews’ [3], and the voice of Dr. Pius Kamau, a physician in Denver. Through these voices we are transported to Sub-Saharan Africa, specifically Kenya, where climate change is shown to have an effect on farming and health.

The Kenya Environmental and Politics blog looks at the debate [4] centering around the connection between an increase in temperatures in the once cooler climes of Nairobi, and a resurgence of malaria.

The third assessment report, published in 2001, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, paid special attention to highland malaria. The report states that due to the life-cycle of the mosquito and its role as host of the malaria parasite, “at low temperatures, a small increase in temperature can greatly increase the risk of malaria transmission” and “future climate change may increase transmission in some highland regions, such as in East Africa”.

The resurgence of ‘highland malaria’ in several African countries has become controversial issues in debates about health and climate change.

However, the IPCC report continues, “there are insufficient historical data on malaria distribution and activity to determine the role of warming, if any, in the recent resurgence of malaria in the highlands of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia”.

The opinions of Doctors from the Kibera slum (pictured below) in Nairobi are included, giving an invaluable, culturally contextual ‘on the ground’ perspective on the debate.
kibera rooftops [5]

Whatever the causes, and the scientific wrangles, medical staff working in Kibera are having to tackle malaria. “Malaria is the leading disease we face,” says George Gecheo, clinical officer in Kibera’s Ushirika clinic. Nurse Dorah Nyanja, who works in Senye Medical Clinic in the slum’s Soweto Market, adds: “I am treating more people per day for malaria than any other condition.”

The post concludes with a mention of the ways the Ministry of Health is dealing with malaria prevention and treatment.

On NPR's Morning Edition [6] radio show, Dr. Pius Kamau, a diaspora Kenyan based in Denver talks about the effects of climate change on his family's small coffee farm in Kenya. You can listen to audio of the commentary ‘When the Drought Came, a Kenyan Farm Died’ [7]. Dr. Kamau's commentary draws a full circle connection from the habits of modern life in the developed world — piping hot Starbucks coffee, fuel-guzzling SUV's — and the effect of these habits on global climate change to the deterioration of his family's farm in Kenya. It is a gripping commentary that examines the question of the Diaspora's choices in the developed world, their resulting carbon emissions and what this means to their home countries. He points out that it is also imperative for the Diaspora to take steps in conservation and reduction of their carbon footprints.