World Health Showcase A Gloomy Picture

World Health Showcase A Gloomy Picture

As the world over, climate change is widely discussed and world leaders are trying to find solutions to the worst scenario, the Lancet  Countdown  report 2021  sheds a gloomy picture of the future, indicating health problems tied to climate change are worsening on all indicators and affecting people everywhere.

The report released on October 21, 2021, used 44 indicators that expose an unabated rise in the health impacts of climate change and the current health consequences of the delayed and inconsistent response of countries around the globe.

Researchers from 43 institutions and UN agencies prepared the report.

While the world’s attention has been diverted towards Covid 19, the health effects of human-induced climate change continue to increase. As with COVID-19, the health impacts of climate change are inequitable, with disproportionate effects on the most susceptible populations in every society, including people with low incomes, members of minority groups, women, children, older adults, people with chronic diseases and disabilities, and outdoor workers, the report noted.

DEEPENING INEQUITIES

The lancet report says that temperatures in 2020 resulted in a new high of 3.1 billion more person-days of heatwave exposure among people older than 65 years and 626 million more person-days affecting children younger than 1 year. Apart from this, the report mentions that hundreds have died prematurely from heat. It says that people in countries with low and medium levels of UN defined Human Development Index (HDI) had the biggest increase in heat vulnerability during the past 30 years.

AGRICULTURAL WORKERS

Adverse climatic conditions led agricultural workers in countries with low and medium HDI exposed to extreme temperatures, bearing almost half of the 295 billion potential work hours lost due to heat in 2020. These lost work hours could have devastating economic consequences to these already vulnerable workers. The report mentions that the average potential earnings lost in countries in the low HDI group were equivalent to 4 to 8 per cent of the national gross domestic product.

REVERSAL OF FOOD AND WATER SECURITY

Altered rainfall pattern, rising temperatures is beginning to reverse years of progress in tackling the food and water insecurity, the report said.

During any given month in 2020, up to 19 per cent of the global land surface was affected by extreme drought, The drought value had not exceeded 13 per cent between 1950 and 1999. Moreover, warm temperatures are affecting the yield potential of the world’s major staple crops such as 6 per cent reduction for maize, 3 per cent for winter wheat, 5.4 per cent for soybean and 1.8 per cent for rice in 2020. All these increased the risk of food security.

DISEASES

Socioeconomic development, public health interventions and advances in medicine have reduced the transmission of infectious disease the world over. However, the Lancet report notes that climate change could undermine eradication efforts.

In the report, the authors note that the number of months with environmentally suitable conditions for the transmission of malaria (Plasmodium falciparum) rose by 39 per cent from 1950–59 to 2010–19 in densely populated highland areas in the low HDI group.

The epidemic potential for dengue virus, Zika virus, and chikungunya virus, which currently primarily affect populations in central America, South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and south Asia, increased globally, with a basic reproductive rate increase of 13 per cent for transmission by Anopheles aegypti and seven per cent for transmission by Anopheles albopictus compared with the 1950s.

Between 2003 and 2019, the coastal areas suitable for V cholerae transmission increased substantially across all HDI country groups—although, with 98% of their coastline suitable to the transmission of V cholerae in 2020, it is people in the low HDI country group that have the highest environmental suitability for this disease

ADAPTATION

The Lancet report states that countries are not delivering an adaptation response proportionate to the rising risks their populations face. In 2020, 104 of 166 countries did not have a high level of implementation of national health emergency frameworks, leaving them unprepared to respond to pandemics and climate-related health emergencies. About 18 of 33 countries with a low HDI had reported at least a medium level of implementation of national health emergency frameworks, compared with 47  of 53 countries with a very high HDI. Only 47 of 91 countries reported having a national adaptation plan for health, with insufficient human and financial resources identified as the main barrier for their implementation .

INEQUITABLE RESPONSE

When more than 60 per cent of people in high income countries received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, only just 3.5 per cent of people in low-income countries had one dose.

The Lancet Countdown report calls for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by half within a decade to meet Paris Agreement goals and prevent catastrophic levels of global warming.

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