Friday, November 04, 2022

Africa's Climate Crises

Africa has suffered disproportionately from the climate crisis, although it has done little to cause the crisis. The damage to Africa should be of supreme concern to all nations. The climate crisis has had an impact on the environmental and social determinants of health across Africa, leading to devastating health effects. 

Climate-change-related risks in Africa include flooding, drought, heatwaves, reduced food production, and reduced labour productivity. 

Droughts in sub-Saharan Africa have tripled between 1970–79 and 2010–19. In 2018, devastating cyclones impacted 2·2 million people in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. 

In west and central Africa, severe flooding resulted in mortality and forced migration from loss of shelter, cultivated land, and livestock. 

Changes in ecology brought about by floods and damage to environmental hygiene has led to increases in diseases across sub-Saharan Africa, with rises in malaria, dengue fever, Lassa fever, Rift Valley fever, Lyme disease, Ebola virus disease, West Nile virus, and other infections.

Rising sea levels reduce water quality, leading to water-borne diseases, including diarrhoeal diseases, a leading cause of mortality in Africa. Extreme weather damages water and food supply, increasing food insecurity and malnutrition, which causes 1·7 million deaths annually in Africa.  

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, malnutrition has increased by almost 50% since 2012, owing to the central role agriculture has in African economies. Environmental shocks and their knock-on effects also cause severe harm to mental health. In all, it is estimated that the climate crisis has destroyed a fifth of the gross domestic product of the countries most vulnerable to climate shocks.

It is highly unjust that the most impacted nations have contributed the least to global cumulative emissions, which are driving the climate crisis and its increasingly severe effects. North America and Europe have contributed 62% of carbon dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution, whereas Africa has contributed only 3%.

 It is not just for moral reasons that all nations should be concerned for Africa. The fight against the climate crisis needs all hands on deck. The acute and chronic impacts of the climate crisis create problems such as poverty, infectious disease, forced migration, and conflict that spread through globalised systems. These knock-on impacts affect all nations. It is an interconnected world, leaving all countries at the mercy of environmental shocks, creating instability with severe consequences for all nations.

The climate crisis is a product of global inaction and comes at great cost not only to disproportionately impacted African countries but also to the whole world.  If for no other reason than that the crises in Africa will sooner rather than later spread and engulf all corners of the globe, we should all be concerned with the climate crises in Africa.

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