To combat the effects of climate change, Martin Muchangi, Director of WASH and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), Amref Health Africa, has encouraged African nations to take action.
He claims that to deal with the problems posed by climatic crises, African health systems must be prepared.
In answer to inquiries from the newsmen regarding the Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC) 2023 taking place in Kigali, Rwanda, Muchangi spoke.
According to media sources, the AHAIC 2023 brings together Africa’s top political, intellectual, and community activists for discussion and action targeted at mainstreaming climate rhetoric into health policy dialogues and vice versa.
AHAIC 2023 which holds between March 5 and March 8, is jointly convened by Amref Health Africa, the Ministry of Health Rwanda, the African Union, and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
He said: “If you look at the African systems, they are underprepared to cope with the challenges of the climate crisis.
“At the national and sub-national level, health systems are already facing significant challenges that make them particularly vulnerable to the increased health burden of the climate crisis, which also includes threats by other communicable diseases, like what we saw with COVID-19 in a growing population.
“There are major or significant funding gaps for health infrastructure, commodities, and other health systems issues too.
“However, there is variation in the level of preparedness across different countries, like when you look at South Africa and the Northern African countries, they have better systems.
“But, the general conclusion is that the health systems across the board need to prioritize preparedness around how to address the climate crisis and how to boost the delivery of climate-related services.’’
The WASH director said there was also a need for an increase in the effectiveness of existing interventions for climate and health.
According to him, it is also imperative to improve the training of health professionals to understand the challenge and to be able to move forward with mitigative measures as well as adaptative measures.
Muchangi noted that all the evidence pointed to the fact that climate change or climate crisis had implications across the board, and more especially for those who are the poorest.
“Africa is at the forefront of growing health crises as a result of climate change and this is despite contributing to only four percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
“Africa is experiencing a disproportionate increase in temperature.
“This is contributing to the reduction of agricultural productivity of about 34 percent since the year 1960.
“If you look at the communicable diseases, the rate of malaria and dengue, Ebola, and other communicable diseases are on the rise and this is directly attributable to climate change,” he said.
The WASH director noted that climate change again was already having a mental impact on the health workforce.
“A study conducted in six African countries report that over half of the health professionals studied, considered the impacts of climate change on human health to be extensive and these are health workers speaking about these,” Muchangi said.’’
He emphasized that the climate crisis was threatening to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, group health, and poverty reduction and to further widen the health inequalities between and within the populations.
“And to further widen the health inequalities between and within the populations, the climate crisis is also jeopardizing the realization of Universal Health Care and exacerbating the barriers in accessing health services, especially to the poorest and the neediest’’, the director said.
He said there was also a need to develop evidence-based policies and micro strategies for public health adaptation to climate change crisis and strengthening Early Warning Systems.
Muchangi added that health should also become one of the key negotiation points at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and should involve cross-sectoral collaborations to upscale action on climate change.