Exposure To Heat Impact Children in Low Income Countries

Only 15% of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are on track at the half-time point of the 2030 agenda

Can exposure to heat have adverse impact on children? A new study by Cornell University shows that exposure to extreme heat increases both chronic and acute malnutrition among infants and young children in low-income countries. This would reverse decades of progress, the researchers claimed.

The researchers came to the conclusion by linking survey and geocoded weather data over more than 20 years. The study that analysed more than 32,000 West African children aged 3-36 months found that average heat exposure increased the prevalence of stunted growth from chronic malnutrition by 12 per cent and of low weight from acute malnutrition by 29 per cent.


They warned that if the average global temperature rises 2 degrees Celsius, the average effect of heat exposure on stunting would nearly double, erasing gains recorded during the study period (1993 to 2014).

The researchers at the university said that it was a worrying as temperatures in West Africa are rising and expected to continue to do so for several decades. And the effects of acute and chronic malnutrition in early childhood, which are linked to higher mortality rates and to lower education and incomes in adulthood, are irreversible, they added.

The paper’s lead author is Sylvia Blom, a Cornell Ph.D. graduate, now a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Notre Dame. Ortiz-Bobea is a co-author of “Heat exposure and child nutrition: Evidence from West Africa,” published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, with John Hoddinott, a professor of food and nutrition economics and policy at Cornell.

The researchers acknowledged funding support from the African Development Bank through the Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS) project.

Another recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that heat can promote kidney disease and heat stress in children. For older youth, the study points out, “heat-related illness is a leading and increasing cause of death and illness among student athletes.” This study showed that heat exposure prior to birth is associated with a higher risk of pre-term births, as well as low birth weights, and is linked to infant hyperthermia and death.

Further a team of international scientists, led by the University of Leeds in collaboration with researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), have shown that thousands of heat-related child deaths could be prevented if temperature increases are limited to the Paris Agreement’s 1.5ºC target through to 2050. The study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, estimated the impact of climate change on annual heat-related deaths of children under five years old in sub-Saharan Africa, from 1995—2050.

Extreme heat and high temperature can make children sick quickly in several ways. It can cause heat cramps, dehydration, heat exhaustion and several other health issues.


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