WHO says climate crisis impacts peoples health, lives

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Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau
UNITED NATIONS, 4th Dec. World health agency and health advocates on Sunday at COP28 in Dubai said the topic was long overdue for discussion as climate inaction is costing lives and impacting health every single day.

They said our planet has logged higher mean temperatures each year, with 2023 set to be the hottest on record. Ice sheets are melting at an unprecedented rate.

Wildfires have made the air hazardous in some regions, while in others, floods regularly threaten to contaminate drinking water.

More and more people are being affected by disasters, climate-sensitive diseases and other health conditions.

According to WHO, climate change exacerbates some existing health threats and creates new public health challenges. Worldwide, only considering a few health indicators, an additional 250,000 deaths per year will occur in the next decades because of climate change.

WHO head Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told delegates at COP28 that it was long overdue for talks around environmental health, rising sea levels, and melting glaciers, to include the direct impacts of such climate shocks on human health.

‘Health Day’ at a COP is highlighted several key events, including on public-private partnerships for healthcare climate action and on unlocking relevant financial and political commitments.

Ministers of health, environment and finance made delivered addresses alongside notable figures like Bill Gates and US climate envoy John Kerry, all gathered at the Al Waha auditorium in Dubai’s iconic Expo City to consider actions to address the impact of climate change on human health.

Dr. Tedros said “Although the climate crisis is a health crisis, it’s well overdue that 27 COPs have gone without a serious discussion of health. No more,”.

He reiterated WHO welcome of the new declaration on acceleration actions to protect people from growing climate impacts that was endorsed on Saturday during the World Climate Action Summit.

Climate change is directly contributing to humanitarian emergencies spared by heatwaves, wildfires, floods, tropical storms and hurricanes. Those and similar climate shocks are only increasing in scale, frequency and intensity.

Over 3 billion people live in areas highly susceptible to climate change, according to the WHO.

It noted that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause tens of thousands of additional deaths per year from undernutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

These impacts on health and daily lives are being felt across the world, and the indigenous communities often bear the brunt.

Dr. Tedros spotlighted in his remarks at the conference several elements that are crucial to building effective responses to tackling the health and climate challenge:

He pointed that leaders must understand that it is critical to focus on the nexus of health and climate impacts, so that health can be mainstreamed into climate policies.

Tedros stated engagement with communities is equally important with marginalized and vulnerable communities, who are often at the forefront of the climate challenge.

“Their perspectives in mitigation and adaptation efforts must be incorporated.” Massive investment in health services will be key to achieving these goals.

Dr. Tedros underscored the vitality of cooperation among countries, learning from successful examples of other countries, and then implementing them in local contexts.

He concluded that the way forward is clear: “We do not need to reinvent the wheel.”

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