Tuesday, June 19, 2012

4. Toward malaria risk prediction in Afghanistan using remote sensing

Farida Adimi, Radina P Soebiyanto, Najibullah Safi and Richard Kiang


Background: Malaria is a significant public health concern in Afghanistan. Currently, approximately 60% of the population, or nearly 14 million people, live in a malaria-endemic area. Afghanistan's diverse landscape and terrain contributes to the heterogeneous malaria prevalence across the country. Understanding the role of environmental variables on malaria transmission can further the effort for malaria control programme.

Methods: Provincial malaria epidemiological data (2004-2007) collected by the health posts in 23 provinces were used in conjunction with space-borne observations from NASA satellites. Specifically, the environmental variables, including precipitation, temperature and vegetation index measured by the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectoradiometer, were used. Regression techniques were employed to model malaria cases as a function of environmental predictors. The resulting model was used for predicting malaria risks in Afghanistan. The entire time series except the last 6 months is used for training, and the last 6-month data is used for prediction and validation.

Results: Vegetation index, in general, is the strongest predictor, reflecting the fact that irrigation is the main factor that promotes malaria transmission in Afghanistan. Surface temperature is the second strongest predictor. Precipitation is not shown as a significant predictor, as it may not directly lead to higher larval population. Autoregressiveness of the malaria epidemiological data is apparent from the analysis. The malaria time series are modelled well, with provincial average R2 of 0.845. Although the R2 for prediction has larger variation, the total 6-month cases prediction is only 8.9% higher than the actual cases.

Conclusions: The provincial monthly malaria cases can be modelled and predicted using satellite-measured environmental parameters with reasonable accuracy. The Third Strategic Approach of the WHO EMRO Malaria Control and Elimination Plan is aimed to develop a cost-effective surveillance system that includes forecasting, early warning and detection. The predictive and early warning capabilities shown in this paper support this strategy.

Malaria Journal 2010, 9:125

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