Hisgutanang Klima sa Mindanao: Climate change and malaria

By Marisol Tuso


It has been seven (7) years since I left the Global Fund for Malaria Component Project (GFMC) where I worked for a decade. I was a young community development worker in 2005 when I joined the project, which marked the shift of my career from being a broadcast journalist to the development sector. I assumed the role of Provincial Project Coordinator for Agusan del Norte and Butuan City and together with me were 45 other coordinators from other provinces where malaria was endemic. I met Errol Merquita, then the Provincial Project Coordinator of Davao del Norte who then became the Cluster Head of Davao Region; Maria Elvy Dominicata of North Cotabato who was then assigned to Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao, and became the Cluster Head of SOCCSKSARGEN; Lelani Togonon from South Cotabato; and Art Gerald Godoy from Davao Oriental. We left the project when our respective provinces were declared malaria-free. Elvy was left in Mindanao with the project. During those many years of working together, we have built and nurtured a friendship and even called ourselves, in jest, “ex-malarious.”  Many years after, I’m happy that our personal advocacy and our love for the planet brought us back together as Climate Reality Leaders.

Malaria and climate change

Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. In 2020, there were an estimated 241 million cases of malaria worldwide. Scientists have described the disease as involving a complex interplay between humans, mosquitoes, the plasmodium parasite, and the climate.

Researchers showed the link between the transmission of malaria and climate change. Variation in climatic conditions, such as temperature, rainfall patterns, and humidity, has a profound effect on the longevity of the mosquito and the development of malaria parasites in the mosquito, and subsequently malaria transmission.

In the Philippines, the principal vector of malaria is Anopheles Flavirostris which breeds in clear and fresh-water streams in foothills and mountain slopes. In my province, the highest number of cases were recorded in the far-flung and mountainous areas, where mosquitoes thrive as they call “malaria begins when the road ends.”

With effective strategies for malaria diagnosis and treatment, vector control such as Long-Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets (LLINs), Indoor Residual Spraying, and larval control, and strong advocacy and social mobilization in the prevention and control, malaria cases and deaths in the Philippines have been reduced significantly. Around 42 of the 81 provinces were declared malaria-free with only seven provinces having local transmission.  

The fight against malaria is a continuing battle. Sustaining gains from all the efforts being done is still a challenge to avoid the resurgence of cases. We hope that the efforts we have shared in the communities that we have served will sustain. That would be our legacy, together with our partners, of being part of that historic fight against the disease. 

But while Errol, Elvy, Art, Lelani, and I have won that battle against malaria in the provinces we have served, our fight against climate change is going to be our biggest one.

Virtual hangout for Climate Reality Leaders in Mindanao

The Regional Hangout in Mindanao this month was like a reunion of the “ex-malarious” warriors. We are now working in different fields, but we are all doing our part to contribute to climate change. 
Art, Elvy, and Lani have been participating in events and sharing social media posts on climate. Art has incorporated climate action into the events and programs of the Mati City Anti-Drug Abuse Council (CADAC). In fact, in support of the Green Program of the city government, graduates of the city’s rehabilitation program for Persons Who Used Drugs (PWUD) called Development Rehabilitation and Aftercare Program are required to plant trees.  Lani and Elvy started practicing waste segregation at home, with the latter starting to use solar-powered lights at home. Errol, on the other hand, has recently served as a mentor for the Poets for Climate Pebble Poem Workshops organized by Climate Reality Philippines, Canada, and Africa, and the Agam Agenda.
Climate change is here. Mindanao has been experiencing its impacts. Fish stocks have declined. The warming temperature of the sea waters has damaged critical marine habitats. Seagrasses are now covered by siltation due to flooding. The fishing seasons have changed. 
Moving forward, the fight against climate change will become more challenging. And the “ex-malarious” warriors, together with the more than 1,800 Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders, will strive harder to make significant strides in climate action in the country.


Marisol is the Mindanao Coordinator of The Climate Reality Project Philippines. She has been working in the development sector for 16 years. She is a specialist in training, institution and community development, information, education, and communication (IEC), and gender and social inclusion. Aside from being a broadcast journalist since 1997,  she also served as the Project Coordinator of the Global Fund for Malaria Component Project for 10 years and as Training and IEC Specialist of the Philippine Cold Chain Project. 


Hisgutanang Klima or “Climate Discussions” is a space that aims to amplify the climate stories and initiatives of the more than 100 Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders in Mindanao.

It is one of the monthly columns launched by The Climate Reality Project Philippines to elevate the climate discourse and strengthen climate action across all regions in the Philippines.