This project has ended |
2010 - 2013

Quantifying Weather and Climate Impacts on Health in Developing Countries (QWeCI)

One of the most dramatic and immediate impacts of climate variation is that on disease, especially the vector-borne diseases that disproportionally affect the poorest people in Africa. Although we can clearly see that, for example, an El Nino event triggers Rift Valley Fever epidemics, we remain poor at understanding why particular areas are vulnerable and how this will change in coming decades, since climate change is likely to cause entirely new global disease distributions. This applies to most vector borne disease. At the same time, we do not know currently the limit of predictability of the specific climate drivers for vector-borne disease using state-of-the-art seasonal forecast models, and how best to use these to produce skilful infection-rate predictions on seasonal timescales.

The QWeCI project thus aims to understand at a more fundamental level the climate drivers of the vector-borne diseases of malaria, Rift Valley Fever, and certain tick-borne diseases, which all have major human and livestock health and economic implications in Africa, in order to assist with their short-term management and make projections of their future likely impacts. QWeCI will develop and test the methods and technology required for an integrated decision support framework for health impacts of climate and weather. Uniquely, QWeCl will bring together the best in world integrated weather/climate forecasting systems with heath impacts modelling and climate change research groups in order to build an end-to-end seamless integration of climate and weather information for the quantification and prediction of climate and weather on health impacts in Africa.

QWeCI was launched on 1 February 2010. This project idea has received over 3 million euro funding from the EU for a 42 month period and involves 15 partners, 8 of which are African research institutes. More information can be found on the QWeCI website.

 

 

Project summary

This successful collaboration between African and European institutions ran from February 2010 to July 2013. It achieved its key objectives of producing models for vector-borne diseases such as malaria and Rift Valley fever that can be used to develop tools to give early warning of the occurrence and spread of such diseases.

In particular, making the first step towards the creation of an operational early warning system for malaria went far beyond the original research plans and remit of QWeCI and represents a major advance in applied early warning systems. Potential end users of early warning tools include health professionals and policymakers. Key findings and recommendations for future projects are made in the final report.

Key achievements

  • Tailoring products from existing climate models and evaluating their suitability for quantifying health impacts in the region. Such products are being used by scientific partners and in discussions with decision-makers in Africa.
  • Evaluating the capability to predict the occurrence of diseases that have a climate driver and producing disease risk maps for dissemination.
  • Establishing long-range Wi-Fi to allow the central monitoring of local disease outbreaks and the communication of disease risk.
  • Improving the vector-pathogen-host database at the National Consortium for Zoonosis Research in Liverpool, UK, which is available to registered users.
  • Setting up an atmospheric database and multi-agency system portal based in Cologne, Germany, and a climate model downscaling portal in Santander, Spain.

The progress would not have been possible without processing existing data, building new model developments, gaining new field data to parametrize and evaluate the models and, most importantly, involving scientists and users in the region to evaluate the forecasting systems. The project has continued and extended collaboration between African and European institutions. Most importantly, it has connected, supported and inspired the next generation of African and European scientists who made key contributions to the project.

Approach and results

The project had three pilot field studies in Senegal, Ghana and Malawi. Advanced European seasonal forecasting systems were coupled with malaria disease transmission models and the results disseminated to African partners and their stakeholders.

Stakeholder communication was an important feature of the project. Newsletters were produced every six months and widely circulated. Stakeholders participated in a number of workshops and many had regular contact with project partners. Dissemination of the project products is a key success of QWeCI; the LMM and VECTRI models have been interfaced into a pre-operational malaria early warning system.

Feedback from African partners has helped in tailoring the products of the early warning system to the needs of end users in the target areas, a long-term process that is still underway. This system is driven by the ECMWF seamless monthly-to-seasonal model outputs to create a seamless forecasting system. At the moment these plots are being trialled in the field with users in Africa. Results have been shared at conferences, in workshops and by project and peer-reviewed publications. QWeCI will also feature in a short film commissioned by the project that will be available through the project website.

Partners and stakeholders

The QWeCI consortium consists of 13 partners from nine countries, with six based in the EU and seven from mostly low-income African countries. The project had two subcontracted stakeholders (the national programmes for malaria and livestock) from Senegal. The Malawi Ministry of Health become another effective stakeholder during the project and participated in the workshops and training activities.

Further reading

The results of the project include 52 deliverable reports, 29 milestone reports, most of which are available from the QWeCI website, and over 29 peer-reviewed publications in major top-rated journals. A number of these publications are cited in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Reports.

 

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Framework Programme under grant agreement number 243964.