Effects of climate on health

In 2008, World Health Organisation focuses on the need to protect people’s health from the adverse effects of climate change.

In 2008, World Health Organisation focuses on the need to protect people’s health from the adverse effects of climate change.

WHO made the choice in recognition that climate change is posing ever growing threats to global public health security.

It is against this background that Rwanda has set objective for better Health in 2008.

It aims at creating awareness and information exchange on the causes of climate change, highlight the links between climate change and health, encourage individual and collective efforts to prevent, mitigate, and combat climate change effects for better health.

Earth’s climate is not constant; temperature, rain fall, humidity, are variable. The reasons are not always understood and are often unpredictable.

But, general atmospheric circulation and concentrations, general oceanic circulation, continents, human activities --- have influence on climate.

According to official in charge of Environmental Health at the Ministry of Health, Joseph Katabarwa, climate change is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of global atmosphere.

And that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over time. He says that the causes of climate change include: changes in atmospheric abundance of greenhouse gases, Changes in atmospheric aerosols, Changes in solar radiation, changes in land surface properties for example reflectivity. 

More specifically climate change may be due to: Industrial, domestic and agriculture activities, widespread and large-scale combustion of fossil fuels, methane and nitrous oxide emissions.

He adds that it is extremely unlikely that global climate change of the past 50 years can be explained without external forces.

From climate variation and change, impacts will occur in complicated ways, and impacts on one sector will affect those on other sectors. And the observed changes in regional climate affect many physical and biological systems.

“As an impact on the society, changes in temperature, weather conditions and soil moisture could severely reduce the productivity of marginal lands. Drought, crop failure and floods may drive millions of people from their homes. Climate change complicates people’s living resources and shelter. It causes lack of shelter, overcrowding and poor diet and sanitation, weaken the population and increase the incidence of disease and death”, Katabarwa explains.

This explains why the health sector in partnership with other organization, government departments and training institutions must prepare for the challenges posed by climate change through establishment of a National Policy and Environmental Health Strategic plan on protecting people’s health from climate change. Communities too, should be active and efficiently participate in mitigation strategies.

While the reality of climate change can no longer be doubted, the magnitude of its consequences, especially for health can still be reduced.