African govts unite in mega effort to fight climate crisis
More than half of the over 2,000 public health events recorded in Kenya and Africa were climate-related, the World Health Assembly has been told. This has now pushed African governments represented by their health ministers, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Amref Health, to launch an initiative to tackle the problem. In a joint statement, the brains behind the initiative showed that out of 2,121 public health events recorded in the region between the year 2001 and 2021, 56 per cent were climate-related. They also said that there has been an upsurge in natural disasters, which account for 70 per cent of all the disasters that happened between the year 2017 and 2021. “The consequences of climate change have a direct effect on our health and well-being, with our region suffering some of its worst impacts. The initiative lays a strong foundation for building resilient health systems that can continue providing essential services even as they deal with the devastation of floods, drought, environmental degradation, disease outbreaks and other impacts of climate change,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. Dr Githinji Gitahi, chief executive officer of Amref said that the initiative will work with the governments and support them to understand the impact of climate change on health through evidence to better protect health systems against threats of climate change. The announcement coincides with an update by the WHO which shows that 90 per cent of member countries are now including health threats caused by climate change as part of their commitments to tackle climate change. This obligation, under the Paris Agreement, is called the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs) Data from the Global Climate and Health Alliance shows that low and middle income countries are on the frontline of updating their NDCs to include health. “Overall, the Healthy NDC Scorecard demonstrates a trend of low- and middle-income countries showing greater ambition for protecting their citizens’ health from the worst impacts of climate change, while identifying additional wins through health co-benefits of climate action”, said Jess Beagley, Policy Lead at the Global Climate and Health Alliance. Already, the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) President, Sultan Al Jaber, announced earlier this month that this year's COP will be the first to have a day dedicated to Health, whose aim will be to discuss the impacts of climate change on health. “Although COP28 is being marketed as the ‘Health COP’, the Health NDC Scorecard scores makes it clear that virtually none of the countries’ most culpable for climate warming appear to be clearly focused on protecting the health of their citizens, or people around the world, when making climate commitments”, said Dr Jeni Miller, Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance. “This is despite promising to protect people’s ‘right to health’ when adopting the 2015 Paris Agreement, as well as endorsing the ‘right to a healthy environment’ at COP27,” she added. Dr Miller adds that the protection of people’s health and well-being around the world must drive decision making in the COP28 negotiation halls across all the areas of negotiation, from adaptation, to agriculture and nutrition, to finance, and of course to mitigation. “COP28’s proposed focus on health must also drive commitments to a full phase-out of fossil fuels, in line with the science,” she said. “A focused plan for a global fossil fuel phase-out is a global public health imperative – a switch to renewable energy offers triple-win solutions for energy access, clean air, and a safe planet. If COP28 is truly to be the ‘Health COP’ then governments must not only act to protect people’s health, they must also rid the world of fossil fuel dependence,” she explained.