- STEPHANIE SODERO, BERTRAND TAITHE and RAM VADI
Every year, the lives of millions of people are destroyed by disasters, both caused and made worse by the climate crisis. From forest fires to droughts, rich and poor countries are increasingly facing emergency room – but the world’s most vulnerable suffer the full brunt of their effects.
Even if global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as stipulated in the Paris Agreement, an increasing number of people will be left without healthcare, shelter and food in the event of a disaster.
A visual summary of the study’s recommendations. PHOTO: Dwarka Nath Sinha, author provided
“We asked aid workers how to best prepare for a climate emergency in places where its effects are most severe when we did our Sounding the Siren study, which is detailed in this new graphic. We have proposed seven critical changes to mitigate the impacts of climate change on human health in vulnerable regions of the world.
These environments can also create a breeding ground for mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue and get worse skin diseases. Inadequate health services are overwhelmed, and mental and physical health deteriorates.
In the long term, children’s limited access to health care and nutritious food delays their development. This has major economic benefits: if children are unable to thrive, they cannot grow up to realize their full potential in society and in turn help others. This is just one of the immeasurable impacts of the climate emergency on health.
We have proposed seven critical changes to mitigate the impacts of climate change on human health in vulnerable regions of the world.
1. Get informed
Access to credible and accurate climate information is more important than ever. Everyone from aid workers to community leaders must be aware of the realities of climate change and its local effects if they are to avoid or help treat its medical consequences. For example, monitoring the salt content of drinking water due to sea level rise that pollute groundwater allows communities to prepare alternative water sources in advance.
Health emergencies triggered by climatic events are increasingly common. Photo: Dwarka Nath Sinha, author provided.
2. Plan ahead
The heat waves suffered in the northern hemisphere this summer offered a taste of the physical, mental and emotional distress caused by a relentless heat and humidity. These effects are magnified in low-income countries, where overcrowded and exposed housing and working conditions make it more difficult to escape the heat and food insecurity is more likely.
Emergency health systems in vulnerable regions are designed for short-term actions to improve these conditions. However, given the long-term impacts of the climate emergency, aid workers must anticipate the long-term effects, including conflict on water, land and medicine. For example, the World Food Program now plans its anti-hunger strategies at least four years in advance.
3. Act early
Preventive action saves lives, time and money. If people, communities and aid workers are able to act early before emergencies become acute, suffering can be avoided. For example, when a region spends a certain number of days without rainfall – heralding a period of drought – health crises such as diarrheal disease in children can be more easily avoided.
This requires monitoring, planning and cooperation to prevent dangers such as flooding from turning into health disasters. PHOTO: Dwarka Nath Sinha, author provided
4. Update training
The local health facility is vital in responding to disasters, including infectious epidemics, which are exacerbated by the climate emergency. In 2021, the medical aid association United Kingdom-Med worked with doctors and nurses in Yemen to build local capacity to respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases such as COVID-19, which are likely to to augment as the planet heats up. This work could to imply teach life-saving techniques, provide equipment and conduct training courses on up-to-date methods of care.
5. Global collaboration
The scale of the climate emergency transcends the capabilities of any nation. As we saw during the pandemic, a health crisis that begins in one country can quickly spread across the planet. Humans belong to a global society, forcing us to work together across borders to prevent climate-related diseases. For example, organizations like the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and the UN The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs works together to prevent the worst effects of monsoon floods on human health and well-being.
Health care must focus on reducing environmental damage. PHOTO: Dwarka Nath Sinha, author provided
6. Protect the environment
Just as physicians are guided by the axiom “do no harm”, Humanitarian health workers must prioritize minimizing environmental damage. An important first step is to establish a Baseline current local environmental states to more accurately measure changes and set local targets for things like renewable energy to ensure that environmental degradation is reduced as much as possible. This, in turn, will reduce the load on health systems.
7. Express yourself
People in privileged positions, such as academics and aid workers, can advocate for those most affected by the climate emergency and magnify the voices of vulnerable people. Readers can also help by joining campaigns like this one to help spread the word.
Stephanie Sodero is a speaker on responses to climate crises at the Manchester University; Bertrand Taïthe is professor of cultural history at the Manchester University, and Ram vadi is program director in health systems at the Manchester University. This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read it original article.