To date, much of the evidence of the health impacts of climate change has focused on malaria. But the impacts are much wider than this. Climate change projections for Africa indicate that temperatures will increase by 0.2–0.5°C per decade, and many African regions will experience more severe droughts. This will translate to a short growing season for food crops, thus leading to food shortages. These changes may affect human health directly, as the changing weather patterns encourage the production of disease vectors and parasites, such as those causing malaria. Indirect changes will result through impacts on water availability, air quality, food quality and quantity, ecosystems, agriculture and economies – all factors that affect people’s health.
This issue of Joto Afrika features articles from different countries, which highlight ongoing or completed research into climate change and health across Africa. These articles indicate:
*children are most vulnerable to climate change; in times of food shortage, they must be well-fed to avoid malnutrition, as this can make them more vulnerable to other diseases
*communities living in areas prone to flooding are often displaced, forcing them to move to temporary accommodation with basic facilities. This makes them more vulnerable to waterborne diseases
*modelling is an important tool for early warning for climate-induced health disasters
*vulnerable people in communities, for example people living with HIV, can develop successful coping strategies.
Climate change is a significant and emerging threat to public health. There is need for capacity building and implementation of projects to strengthen the health system response to climate change and to ensure that health is appropriately considered in decisions made by other sectors such as energy and transport.