Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Climate Change has Arrived

Too many people believe that climate change is something that will affect humans in the distant future, if at all. But its effects are now.

Droughts, which are also becoming more frequent due to global warming, dry up water supplies, especially in rural areas of the continent, forcing poor families to drink dirty, sediment-and-parasite-laden water and neglect their personal hygiene. This leads to increased occurrence of maladies like lice infestation, scabies and hookworm. Natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods can create breeding grounds for infectious diseases such as cholera. Global climate change also has substantial negative impacts on people’s mental health and well-being. As people cope with the trauma of extreme weather effects, such as losing their homes or experiencing violence and ill health, they also suffer from forms of mental illness such as depression and anxiety.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 2004 report on the global and regional burden of disease, at least 150,000 people die each year due to the direct effects of climate change. Of those, three percent die of diarrhea, another three percent of malaria, and just under four percent of dengue fever. Climate change is expected to trigger increased movements of people within and across borders. The International Organization for Migration estimates (that by 2050, between 25 million and 1 billion environmental migrants will move within their countries or across borders). Rural to urban migration increases migrants’ vulnerability to respiratory diseases and HIV infection. Migration is also one of the key causes of tuberculosis (TB) in countries which in the past rarely saw the disease, which often creates a steep financial burden for these countries.

Additionally, the prevalence of new and re-emerging mosquito-borne diseases is increasing worldwide due to climate change. Rising temperatures in the highlands allow mosquitoes and ticks to survive longer, leading to an increase in mosquito-borne diseases and the emergence of new diseases. Malaria, dengue fever and Leishmaniasis, a disfiguring disease caused by sand flies, are good examples. New kinds of Leishmaniasis have been detected across Africa. This type of Leishmaniasis is resistant to all forms of available treatment.This stigmatizing skin disease, which afflicts the infected person with sores and lesions that can cause permanent disfigurement, is becoming one of the main reasons for school drop-outs in Northern Ethiopia.

Climate change also impacts agriculture and livestock, increasing the prevalence of malnutrition and negatively affecting the health of children and pregnant women. It is estimated that 30 percent children under the age of five in Ethiopia are malnourished. The International Food Policy Research Institute estimates that by 2050 an additional 25 million people will be malnourished as a result of climate change. This is particularly dangerous because malnutrition, which has negative health risks of its own (macronutrient and micronutrient deficiency is a leading cause of childhood death in Africa), also increases people’s susceptibility to infectious diseases such as intestinal parasites, tuberculosis and HIV.

Taken from here 

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