Each year, waterborne diseases like typhoid fever kill more children around the world than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. These diseases are the second leading cause of death for children under five.
Researchers from Edith Cowan University are at the forefront of the fight against these diseases in the IndoPacific Region, with a focus on the island-nation of Fiji.
Unlike traditional medical research, the team from ECU’s School of Science is intent on making a positive impact on human health through environmental management.
Traditional approaches have focussed on the human aspect of the diseases, ignoring environmental and social factors. But they’re just not working.
A growing problem in a changing climate
Outbreaks of waterborne diseases are increasingly common in Fiji and other developing countries and they’re being amplified by changing ecological conditions.
Severe weather events are becoming more frequent as the world’s climate changes and those weather events, like tropical cyclones and monsoonal downpours, often trigger outbreaks of disease.
Since 2005 there have been more than 20 typhoid outbreaks in Fiji, as well as major occurrences of other water-related diseases, such as dengue fever and leptospirosis.
Those outbreaks are significant public health challenges following tropical cyclones, where the consequent widespread damage to the environment and infrastructure place further strain on local health systems.