Climate Change And Health By Pelumi Olugbenga
Over the years, changes in our climate have had various impact on our environment and consequently – on our health as well. Extreme heat, polluted air and contaminated water have exposed humanity to various hazards. The entire human population is already being affected by climate change. However, some regions feel the impact more. The coastal regions of Africa, crowded mega-cities (like Lagos in Nigeria) and tiny Islands are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
According to the World Health Organization, climatic conditions strongly affect water-borne diseases and diseases transmitted through insects, snails or other cold blooded animals. Changes in climate are also likely to lengthen the transmission seasons of important vector-borne diseases and to alter their geographic range.
For almost two decades, children living in sub-Saharan and East Africa have greatly suffered from diseases such as measles and flu.
The change in climate have also seen the increasing presence of mosquitoes and consequently : malaria sickness. Malaria is strongly influenced by climate. Transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes, malaria kills over 400 000 people every year – mainly African children under 5 years old. The Aedes mosquito vector of dengue is also highly sensitive to climate conditions, and studies suggest that climate change is likely to continue to increase exposure to dengue.
More worrisomely, cases of childhood undernutrition have also disturbingly increased. The increase in undernutrition is being aided by destruction of farm plants by unfavourable weather conditions, poor government policies and poverty.
An assessment by WHO, taking into account only a subset of the possible health impacts, and assuming continued economic growth and health progress, concluded that climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050; 38 000 due to heat exposure in elderly people, 48 000 due to diarrhoea, 60 000 due to malaria, and 95 000 due to childhood undernutrition.
Expectedly, Climate Change have also greatly influenced the impact of natural disasters. NASA scientists have confirmed how hurricanes : Irma and Harvey were massively impacted by climate change. These hurricanes also left various health risks. Most especially Irma, the Islands of South America were totally devastated with all infrastructures(including health) obeying the call of the storm. Similarly, in Nigeria, flooding has tremendously increased. Over 200,000 people are presently displaced in Benue State due to recent flooding. This displacement has also led to outbreak of diseases such as cholera while also leaving the population vulnerable to mosquitoes and malaria . The warming of the Indian ocean have also led to drought in East African countries such as Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti – consequently putting the population under the risk of famine and various health diseases. Nigeria is also faced with the risk of famine. Its(Nigeria) main food hub : northern Nigeria is presently faced with the challenge of drought and insecurity (boko haram insurgency).
In all of these, the call to act is even louder than ever. The human population in Africa are greatly endangered by recent changes in our climate. Many Africans presently live without clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and good shelter. The impact of drought on child nutrition; disease impact of floods; changing patterns of malaria transmission; and the increasing impact of natural disasters have all put Africa on the edge. Fortunately, all these can still be turned around by timely efforts and intervention. Renewable energy, climate change finance, sensitization, good government policies, peace and improved social infrastructures are all key to rejuvenating the healthy living of Africans.
Pelumi Olugbenga is a 300L Student of History and International Relations of Lagos State University and writes via firstname.lastname@example.org