LONDON (Reuters) – Climate change and conflict are affecting efforts to combat three of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, the head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has warned.
International disease control initiatives have largely recovered after being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the fund’s 2023 earnings report released on Monday.
But the increasing challenges of climate change and conflict mean the world is likely to miss the goal of ending AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by 2030 without “extraordinary steps,” said Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund.
There are positives, he said. For example, in 2022, 6.7 million people were treated for tuberculosis in the countries where the Global Fund invests, more than ever before and 1.4 million more people than the previous year. The fund also helped provide HIV antiretroviral therapy to 24.5 million people and distributed 220 million bed nets.
However, in a statement accompanying the report, the fund said that “a combination of interconnected and colliding crises,” including climate change, has made it “significantly more difficult to get back on track” post-pandemic.
For example, malaria is spreading in highland regions of Africa where it was previously too cold for the mosquito that transmits the disease-causing parasite. Extreme weather events such as floods are overwhelming healthcare services, displacing communities, causing a surge in infections and disrupting care in many different locations, the report said. In countries such as Sudan, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Myanmar, insecurity has also made it a huge challenge to easily reach vulnerable communities, it said.
But Sands said there is still hope, in part because of innovative prevention and diagnostic tools. A high-level meeting on tuberculosis is taking place at the U.N. General Assembly this week, and advocates are hoping for a greater focus on the disease.
(Reporting by Jennifer Rigby. Editing by Jane Merriman)
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