In recent years, many countries across Central America have experienced a resurgence of existing mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue and malaria, as well as the appearance of newly-emerging vector-borne diseases, such as West Nile virus. There are a number of possible reasons for this worrying trend, including the build up of resistance to existing drugs and chemical agents, but there is also evidence of widespread environmental changes occurring that may be related to global warming.
Climate change is implicated in particular in the increased incidence and extent of extreme weather events, such as extensive flooding and storm damage. Such events may create extensive areas of new mosquito breeding habitat which may encourage aggressive mosquito species, such as Aedes albopictus.
Communities across Central America also face considerable challenges from expanding development, putting strain on existing water resources and infrastructure, and increasing the potential for contamination of potable water supplies from liquid and solid waste. These problems with water and waste management only intensify the potential threat of vector-borne disease – again often providing ideal breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry disease.
Over the past five years, we have worked in a number of Central American countries in partnership with government, business, universities and local communities to assess how we might be able to apply our IMMPACT program to help reduce the risk of emerging and re-emerging vector-borne diseases. Our emphasis has primarily concerned integrated water and waste disposal management that seeks to remove the source of the conditions that allow the creation of mosquito breeding habitat. This approach has the benefit of simultaneously addressing many other health related issues and leads to a general improvement in living conditions that has the potential to alleviate poverty.
In order to explore these issues Culex helped organize a series of water dialogues in Costa Rica in partnership with a number of local communities, government, business and research institutions to initiate dialogue about water supply, waste disposal and disease. Our objective was to identify long-term sustainable solutions to watershed management, waste disposal and mosquito-borne diseases that might equally apply to communities across all of Central America
Stakeholders from each local community, local government and local business were invited to attend. Canadian and Costa Rican partners initiated and facilitated the dialogue between stakeholders to identify concerns and consider solutions. In particular, we explored governance issues and how water management relates to water-borne and vector-borne diseases. The stakeholders identified and prioritized problems with the ultimate goal of finding appropriate solutions that could be implemented and maintained on a sustainable basis.