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Dams and disease: accounting for schistosomiasis risk in infrastructure planning and management

We are working with the De Leo lab at Stanford University to develop an easy-to-use tool for quantifying and mapping schistosomiasis risk associated with dam construction and reservoir management. While our research is centered in Senegal, it has impact potential wherever schistosomiasis is found. Funding: NSF EEID

The Challenge

For almost 100 years, the World Health Organization has been calling for more attention to be paid to outbreaks of the devastating parasite schistosomiasis, or “snail fever,” following dam construction. Yet, still today, thousands of dams are planned or under construction within schistosomiasis-endemic areas, with relatively little money or effort invested into mitigating the disease risks. New research has found that dams increase schistosomiasis, in part, because they block migration of critical aquatic predators of snails that carry the parasite, and simple solutions — such as well designed fish/prawn ladders and/or careful dam placement — could reduce the risk of disease to local communities.

The Solution

The Natural Capital Project is working with the De Leo Lab at Stanford, building on their extensive expertise in and scientific advances into the environmental factors that contribute to schistosomiasis risk, to develop a software tool that will enable rapid evaluation of the schistosomiasis risk from dams.