GFCS Supports Innovative Use of Climate Information in Tanzania

19 July 2017

Image: Farmer from a village outside of Dodoma, Tanzania. Cell phones have the potential to bring tailored climate information to rural farmers. Photo: C. Schubert (CCAFS); view original.

Climate change will impact health in many different ways, and in many different places. Countries that have weak health systems, are affected by poverty, and have especially fragile eco-systems will be the hardest hit. Tanzania is one such country.

Tanzania is a county that is already prone to localised flooding, droughts and a number of poverty-related diseases. Climate change and seasonal variation will exacerbate many of these problems with serious socio-economic implications and significant impacts, both direct and indirect, on health. Indirect health impacts include those related to the changes in vector borne disease transmission, for example, changes in temperature and rainfall may cause malaria to spread into previously malaria-free areas. Other vector borne diseases like rift valley fever and schistosomiasis are likely to change their distribution and intensity with changing weather and land-use. Health problems relating to sanitation and nutrition, as well as a range of non-communicable diseases, will also be exacerbated by changing weather patterns.

In response, the Government of Tanzania, supported by WHO through the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS), has taken several steps over the last three years to make use of climate information to reduce health vulnerabilities to climate variability and change.

GFCS was established to enable better management of the risks of climate variability and change and adaptation to climate change, through the development and incorporation of science-based climate information and prediction into planning, policy and practice. As the first multi-agency initiative implemented under GFCS, the Climate Services Adaptation Programme in Africa aims to increase the resilience of people most vulnerable to the impacts of weather and climate-related hazards through the development of user-driven climate services for food security, health, as well as disaster risk reduction. The countries currently involved as a pilot are the United Republic of Tanzania and Malawi.

Through the GFCS, WHO has been supporting the Government of Tanzania to further incorporate science-based climate information and prediction into health planning, policy and practice. A particularly innovative project is the Enhancing National Climate Services (ENACTS) initiative. Led by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, ENACTS is designed to bring climate knowledge to national decision makers by improving availability, access to, and use of climate information. The TMA “Maproom”, developed by the Tanzanian Meteorological Agency (TMA) in collaboration with ENACTS, provides a user-friendly online information platform that can be used in the surveillance of and response to the health impacts of climate variability and change. For example, the Tanzania Malaria Control Programme is using the Maproom to aid in the forecasting of malaria epidemics and to help plan where and when health supplies should be distributed. This exciting merger of data systems has been disseminated on the TMA website and is available for public use.

GFCS has supported a range of capacity building initiatives in Tanzania. Working on the link between climate change and seasonal variation and health, GFCS has supported  training training initiatives with the Ministry of Health, district health professionals, regional IDSR focal people, and media personnel. A key product of this work was a training manual for use in health education centres.

Other work in Tanzania includes vulnerability assessments, cholera assessments and a range of advocacy work. Taken together, this work significantly contributes to the aims of the Climate Services Adaptation Programme in Africa, increasing the resilience of people most vulnerable to the impacts of weather and climate-related hazards and strengthening capacity to both develop and use climate services for improved decision-making.