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Climatic conditions and tropical diseases in Uganda

Uganda on globe Uganda * In many tropical countries humans and livestock alike are suffering from tropical diseases such as malaria, sleeping sickness and plague. It is a well-known fact that climatic conditions influence the spread of disease, but there is increasing awareness of the fact that climatic change may lead to the outbreak of disease.

In 2000 and 2001, GEUS implemented a pilot project in western Uganda to clarify the correlation between climate, human activity and disease. Sedimentary cores from the bottom of two lakes reveal that there have been great variations in the biological, chemical and physical conditions of the lakes over the past 700 to 1.200 years, reflecting changes caused by both human impact and the climate.

The man-made impact is visible throughout the period, but is clearest in the last few decades. Studies also indicate that from the beginning of the 20th century there seems to be a connection between historically documented outbreaks of sleeping sickness and the agricultural changes and cultural break-up revealed by the sediment cores. Results show that by developing the method further, it will be possible to map the history of disease much further back than the more recent historical records, thus providing insight into future development.

This work was carried out in cooperation with Makerere University, Uganda and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and financed by the Danish Council of Development Research (RUF).

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