South Asia Grosses Health Uncertainty -By Zulker Naeen
To ensure health security under unavoidable climate change in the 1.5°C–2°C global warming pathway has already made Asia’sstatus challenging owing to the disruption of the functioning ecosystem and manifold uncertainties.In their recent report, titled “A Region at Risk: The Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific,” has highlighted the death rates, temperature rise, and heatwaves, the pattern of rainfall, record number of flooding, agriculture biodiversity would lead to drastic changes in the region’s fate.Therefore, these key indicators demand a focus on the status of health hazards in this region to realize that overall health concerns are greatly affected by the adverse effects of climate change.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 150 000 deaths occur worldwide in low-income countries every year owing to the adverse effects of climate change, crop failure and malnutrition, floods, diarrheal diseases and malaria, where India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh being the top four countries experiencing such deaths.
South Asia, an unswerving victim of the extreme heatwaves, with a severe episode in 2015 leading to 3,500 deaths. A six-degree Celsius temperature increase is projected over the entire Asian landmass by the end of the century. Poor farmers are most at risk from future humid heatwaves but have contributed very little to the emissions that drive climate change.
Climate change in South Asia is predicted to lead to an increase in the frequency and duration of summer heatwaves. High temperatures cause ill health through heatstroke, which can progress to death, and also through an increase in the mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory illness. Changes in temperature can affect the rates of reproduction and survival of infectious organisms and insect vectors, thus affecting rates of transmission of vector-borne diseases and causing diseases to spread to new areas.
Asia may accept 50% more rainfall owing to climate change, however, coastal and low-lying areas in Asia will be at an increased risk of flooding. It causes ill health directly, through trauma and drowning. More significantly, it harms water and sanitation infrastructure and is associated with increased diarrheal disease and other vector-borne diseases.
Furthermore, although climate change is predicted to increase transmission windows of malaria overall in South Asia.
Climate change will also make food production in this region more difficult and costly. Food shortages could increase the number of malnourished children in South Asia by 7 million, as import costs will probably increase to USD 15 bn per year by 2050, compared to USD 2 billion now.
Overall, in South Asia, one estimate is that crop yields will decrease by 5–30 % by 2050. The IPCC projects that by the middle of the twenty-first century, the largest number of food-insecure people will be located in South Asia, partly caused by reductions in sorghum and wheat yields.
Most countries in the region lack adequate plans for disease and vector surveillance and control and emergency preparedness. A limited scientific expertise, inadequate public health legislation, lack of human and financial resources and infrastructure and fragmented health systems in this region are the barriers to effective preparation against the detrimental health effects of climate change.
Developing the regional capacity to protect human health in the face of climate change has to be made to involve national and local partnerships and networks with all relevant stakeholders, as increased financial allocation for health programs will be needed to develop comprehensive plans for addressing the effects of climate change on human health.
If all countries of the region make a combined effort to tackle the effects of climate change on health, the resulting evidence base, emerging best practices and lessons learned will make a valuable contribution to global health.
About the Reporter:
Zulker Naeen is a South Asian Fellow at Climate Tracker. He is also a communication graduate of University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), currently working as a market researcher of lubricants oil sector in Bangladesh.