Climate Change: Africa Needs Help Against Escalating Public Health Crisis

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An associate professor of infectious diseases and public health epidemiology in Nasarawa State, Dr. Ishaku Akyala has emphasised the severe toll of climate change on public health in Africa.

Speaking to Science Nigeria on Monday in Abuja, Akyala highlighted the devastating impact of extreme weather events, such as floods and heatwaves, which have resulted in an alarming increase in disease burdens and fatalities across the continent.

Akyala pointed out that vulnerable populations, including the poor, women and children, bear a disproportionate brunt, grappling with challenges related to waterborne diseases, malnutrition and mental health consequences. Urgent action, he stressed, is imperative to address these health impacts and implement coping and adaptation strategies to mitigate climate change’s effects on public health in African countries.

Advocating for enhanced sensitisation, Akyala emphasised the need to educate health systems, governments and health professionals about the health impacts of climate change. This involves understanding the intricate relationship between climate change and human health and disseminating this knowledge to relevant stakeholders. Akyala urged interdisciplinary research to better comprehend climate-related health impacts and develop effective strategies.

Highlighting the necessity of raising awareness among the public and politicians about the health impacts of climate change, Akyala stressed the crucial support for the work of health professionals in addressing these impacts. Governments and health systems, he asserted, must implement coping and adaptation strategies, encompassing measures to improve water and food security, enhance healthcare infrastructure, and fortify disease surveillance and response systems.

While acknowledging the vulnerability of Africa to climate change, experiencing adverse effects like sea-level rise, water resource reduction, and increased disease burdens, Akyala emphasised the importance of prioritising recommended actions. By doing so, African countries can better prepare for and mitigate the health impacts of climate change, ultimately safeguarding the well-being of their populations.

It’s crucial to note that climate change poses a global threat to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly those related to environmental sustainability. Urgent actions are essential, as emphasised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Paris Agreement. Recent UN reports underscore the severe impact of climate-related disasters on Africa, making it imperative to sensitise public health systems and policymakers to effectively address these challenges. Understanding the intricate relationship between climate change and human health is pivotal for preparedness and response to the escalating prevalence of diseases.

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