World must wake up to Africa’s health crisis caused by climate change


World must wake up to Africa’s health crisis caused by climate change

Our planet, as we know it, is losing its ability to sustain life. Nowhere is this more evident than in Africa, the continent most vulnerable to climate change, despite contributing the least to atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions. Beyond increasingly frequent extreme weather events, Africans face increasing health risks. As World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed out just before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in November, known as COP27, “The climate crisis is a health crisis. (and) already impacting health in many ways through the emergence of more diseases.
Climate change doubles the threat of diseases that are unusually prevalent in Africa. For example, the region accounts for more than 90% of the global malaria burden, and WHO predicts that climate change will kill 60,000 people annually between 2030 and 2050. Rising temperatures and increased precipitation will expand malaria-carrying mosquito habitats and create new potential hotspots for infection. In 2007, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change stated that by 2030, developing countries would need an additional $5 billion annually to treat “increased diarrheal diseases, malnutrition and malaria due to climate change”. I predicted it would.
The risks don’t end there. Africans make up more than a third of the total population suffering from neglected tropical diseases. This is a diverse group of 20 diseases that disproportionately affect women and children. The spread of neglected tropical diseases is often related to environmental conditions. Like malaria, these diseases are directly affected by temperature, rainfall, relative humidity and climate change. Small fluctuations in temperature can increase transmission and spread, with devastating effects. For example, visceral leishmaniasis, which is often fatal if left untreated, is known to be accelerated at high temperatures in sand flies.
Despite these known risks, world leaders attending COP27 paid little attention to the link between climate and health, making only cursory mention in the final outcome document. did. Most of the discussion has centered on adaptation, although Africans cannot simply “adapt” to rising rates of malaria, neglected tropical diseases and other infectious diseases. Mitigation through rapid global decarbonization is essential.

Climate change doubles the threat of diseases that are unusually prevalent in Africa.

Yasin Zibo

But more than that, we must continue to direct money and other resources to areas that offer the best opportunities to prevent disease and save lives. To do that, more governments need to adopt the ‘One Health’ principle. It is a cross-sectoral approach involving the development of programs, policies, legislation and research projects for sectors and ministries to work together to improve public health outcomes. This represents a departure from the norm, which he divides public health into just one government department.
For example, in 2006 Kenya established a new framework to promote multi-sectoral cooperation on health issues, establishing a Central Coordinating Office (Zoonotic Diseases Unit) to integrate the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. was established. The result has been improved national preparedness and response to outbreaks, with far-reaching benefits for global health security.
A “One Health” approach can help move from a constant focus on crisis response to a greater focus on prevention. In my home country of Senegal, we have already started this process to implement an integrated zoonotic disease surveillance program across ministries responsible for human, animal and environmental health. Last November’s Francophonie Summit convened regional and global leaders, ministries of health, media and representatives of international organizations on neglected tropical diseases to integrate climate-driven health challenges into a ‘One Health’ strategy. We discussed the best way. future.
African governments and their peoples will continue to face natural disasters and new barriers in the fight against malaria and neglected tropical diseases. The international community should remember that leaving vulnerable populations at the mercy of the environment and zoonotic shocks will ultimately undermine health security everywhere. We should know by now that no one is safe until

  • Yacine Zibo, former Senegalese representative for Malaria No More, is the founder of Speak Up Africa. © Project Syndicate

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Arab News


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