Slow action on climate change threatens health

Poor weather conditions can expose a child in Namalu Sub-county in Nakapiripirit district to cold-related diseases. Area authorities say 10 people have died due to malaria and pneumonia. PHOTO BY STEPHEN ARIONG

Any delays to mitigate climate change will have adverse effects on human health, reversing global and national gains made in health, experts have warned.

A World Health Organisation health in the green economy series to be launched today at the COP 17 aims at finding synergies between climate change and health and urge the parties to come to mitigation agreements as soon as possible.

It also found that non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, strokes, injuries, asthma and other respiratory diseases can be reduced through mitigation measures by limiting exposure to extreme heat and cold conditions.

Although the president of the conference of parties, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said the Durban Climate Change talks have made good progress, a concrete policy on climate change mitigation and adaptation has not been reached with issues of finance still at a deadlock.

Some major green housegas emitters such as Japan, Russia and Canada openly rejected a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol.

Health experts led by the World Federation of the Public Health Association, warn that with increases in temperatures, changes in precipitation and sea levels, extreme weather events will lead to substantially increased death and disease with Africa hit hardest if parties do not act now.

Third world most hit
“Without bold action by governments, climate change will magnify existing health crises, deepening and broadening the global burden of disease. The greatest burden will fall on those living in poor countries,” Mr Peter Orris, the environment chairperson at the World Federation of Public Health Associations, said.

The commissioner for health, Ms Julian Kyomuhangi, said health does not exist in any mitigation or adaptation climate change negotiations.

“I want to see health in adaptation and mitigation, put as a central justification for shared vision because the impact of health cuts across all issues, we have floods, landslides, rising temperatures and all these cannot be separated from health,” Ms Kyomuhangi told the Ugandan delegation.

Already many areas are facing diseases such as malaria in Kasese district.
The Minister for Water and Environment, Ms Maria Mutagamba, who arrived at the talks at the weekend, urged at least 90 members of the delegation to champion issues raised at the COP and also come up with second plans in case negotiations do not go as planned.

“Before climate change issues were only lefty to members of the Ministry of Water and Environment, this time we have members from all sectors, we want more people who understand climate change and champion all aspects and also come up with plan B,” Ms Mutagamba said.