CLIMATE CHANGE AND HEALTH

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With the changing climate taking a toll on the health of the planet, it is bound to not have any exception to the health of the inhabitants of the planet. Climate change is having a direct impact in our everyday health issues, with vectors of infective diseases thriving like never before, rising temperature, heat wave, many disasters, and even reduced resilience and capacity for adaptations.
Nepal is a mountainous country, and has its topography divided into flat terai and flood plains in the south, hilly region in the middle and mountains in the north. Now an evident change in disease patterns has been experienced by the people living in mountains, when there had been no occurrence of mosquitoes before, there is a presence of a lot of mosquitoes now, which shows that as the temperature rises in the higher elevations, mosquitoes find new habitats. According to a report by Nepal Health Research Council,” The cross-sectional entomological survey conducted in 2006 after first outbreak of dengue in Nepal identified the presence of Aedes aegypti in 5 major urban areas of terai regions bordering with india (Biratnagar, Birgunj, Bharatpur, Tulsipur and Nepalganj) and first record ofAedes aegypti in Kathmandu in 2009.4 Previously noAedes aegypti was recorded in Nepal. The presence of Aedes aegypti in these urban areas may be attributed by climate change.”
Data from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Nepal shows that every year more than one million people are susceptible to climate-induced disasters such as floods, landslides, and droughts. Health conditions like heat stroke, injuries, malnutrition, vector and water-borne diseases have been exacerbated by these climatic conditions.
World Health Organization stated that the relationship between climate change and human health was going to be among the most complex issues faced and expected to have profound implications on overall development and well being of societies. The intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified human health as one of the major sectors to be affected due to climate change with more serious stress in the developing parts of the world. In line with global observations the Government of Nepal ascertains human health in the country is a major aspect to be affected by the global climate change phenomenon and has therefore placed it among six thematic areas of importance to be addressed at policy level through the National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA). According to the public health thematic group of National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), many of the common diseases in Nepal are climate related and a rise in temperature would make the subtropical and warm temperate regions of Nepal more vulnerable to Malaria, Kala-azar, and Japanese Encephalitis. Similarly, other impacts outlined are the increasing morbidity and mortality due to cold waves and heat waves in the southern plain area (Terai), disasters, famine and disease outbreak triggered by prolonged droughts and flash floods, increasing trend of respiratory diseases linked with air pollution like Acute Respiratory Infection(ARI), bronchitis, and asthma among others, temporal and spatial increment of water and food borne disease (diarrhea, typhoid, giardiasis, jaundice), changing trend in Kala-azar (Visceral leishmaniasis) to non-endemic districts and the cases of Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) and malaria cases at an altitude higher than 4000 meters which was previously free from such diseases.
According to an analysis of data on temperature and diarrhea published by Nepal Health Research Council and Word Health Organization Country Office for Nepal, from July 2002 to June 2014 estimated that, for a 1 °C increase in ambient temperature, the incidence of diarrhoeal diseases in Nepal rose by 4.39%. The same study also estimated that, for a 1cm increase in annual rainfall, the incidence ofdiarrhoeal diseases rose by 0.28%.
Andrew Dobson, from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, states: “Climate change is disrupting natural ecosystems in a way that is making life better for infectious diseases.”
During my research on climate change and livelihood, I went to Dubar, a remote place in Lamjung, Nepal. The place was once famous for the potatoes, but when I went there all the potatoes had been lost due to the plant infestation. The only food the people depended were on maize, a little bit of rice. Even the natural spring had died down, making it really difficult for the people to sustain the little of agriculture option they have left. The nearest market is also at least a three hour walk away. Therefore, the amount of nutrition they get is really low, and has a direct impact on their health. The warming temperature has been reported to reduce nutrients in the food, spoil the food faster therefore limiting the storage capacity as well.
Another interesting finding was that this place has also recently been experiencing mosquito bites. And they connect it to their toilets and believe that building toilets is what brought these mosquitoes there. Many remote places in Nepal lack decent toilets, making it very difficult to maintain sanitation, and different campaigns are taken to these places to convince the people to built toilets for their home. The same thing happened here, and the people think that building the toilets is what brought the mosquitoes over.
Climate change is having a global far and wide impact all over the world. We are constantly breathing pollutants, the collapse in agriculture due to warm temperature means more fertilizers use, so we are constantly eating chemicals, which is degrading our body and our metabolism in a variety of ways. Not to add the people who are displaced from their homes usually have a very meager living options and are therefore deprived of nutrition. The increased disasters like floods are also rising unhealthy unsanitary conditions worldwide, and the increased heat and cold waves is taking hundreds of live. Climate Change is therefore proving to be an ongoing apocalypse fresh out of some disastrous horror book.

– Anuska Joshi