Deforesting Disease

In the clawed grasp
of forest’s end
a continent breathes –
exhales the green
inhales the dust,
bare as bone
the earth beneath.

Trees fall
in deafening silence,
as in their shadows
death’s vectors swarm –
casting off
against the tide.

Some spared,
others bound
by birthright,
by geography,
by wealth.

Here lies the tale
of stolen lands,
of broken deeds
yet to touch
the soil of truth –
where children’s dreams
are fevered,
by fate’s cruel hand,

This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that deforestation exacerbates the risk of malaria for the most vulnerable children.

In numerous regions of sub-Saharan Africa, the alteration of natural environments, particularly through deforestation, has a direct and significant impact on the health and welfare of local communities. The removal of forests not only disrupts the ecological balance but also increases the likelihood of people encountering diseases carried by mosquitoes, such as malaria. This is of particular concern given the already existing challenges related to socioeconomic status and access to healthcare.

This research has shed light on the intricate dynamics at play between deforestation and the incidence of malaria among young children in six countries within sub-Saharan Africa. By analysing health data of children under five and comparing it to environmental data obtained through satellite technology, a distinct pattern emerged. It was observed that the poorest families suffer a markedly higher prevalence of malaria following deforestation, with no significant increase in cases among the wealthiest. The increase in malaria cases in the most economically challenged households was found to be between 27% to 33% for each measured increase in deforestation. Furthermore, the study identified that the increased risk is not uniform across all mosquito species but is particularly associated with regions dominated by certain types of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. These insights emphasise that deforestation is a key factor in the heightened vulnerability of the world’s poorest children to malaria. They also highlight the necessity for a comprehensive understanding of environmental and health linkages when crafting conservation and health policies, aiming to safeguard not only the environment but also the wellbeing of those who are most at risk.

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