By Joyce Gyekye
The 2021 WHO Report on Climate Change and Health, says this year experienced more extreme heats, floods, droughts, wildfires and hurricanes than before. The report, released ahead of the just ended Climate Summit in Glasgow, says the climate crisis threatens to undo the last fifty years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction, and could further widen existing health inequalities within populations.
The report made reference to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC conclusion that the world must limit temperature rise to 1-point 5 degrees celcius to avert catastrophic health impact to prevent millions of climate change related deaths.
It says more than 930 million people of the world’s population spend at least 10% of their household budget on health care. With the poorest largely uninsured, health shocks and stresses currently push about 100 million people into poverty every year, with the impacts of climate change worsening this trend.
The health impacts are already manifesting in myriads of ways including deaths and illness from extreme weather events like heat waves, storms floods, disruption of food systems, increases in water and vector-borne diseases and mental health.
These health risks are disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable and disadvantaged including women, children migrants and the older population. The document however says taking rapid and ambitious climate action to halt and reverse the climate crises has the potential to bring many benefits, including for health. It says the reduction of greenhouse gases also improves air quality, and supports synergies with many of the sustainable development goals.
It mentioned measures such as facilitating walking and cycling, improving health through increased physical activity, resulting in reductions in respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers, diabetes and obesity. The report makes ten recommendations and proposes a set of priority actions from the global health community to the governments and policy makers.
The recommendations include governments making a commitment to a healthy green and just recovery from COVID-19, placing health and social justice at the heart of UN climate talks, building health resilience to climate risks and promoting healthy, sustainable and resilient food systems.
The COP 26 Special report on climate and health was in memory of a 9-year-old Ella Kissi- Debrah who lived in South-East London and died in 2013.
An inquest found air pollution as a contributory factor to her death.