Special budget suggested to tackle climate change diseases


KARACHI: Environment and health experts said on Monday that Sindh government should allocate special budget to tackle climate change diseases like cholera, dengue, malaria, influenza, cough, meningitis, atopic dermatitis, scabies, waterborne infectious ailments that pose serious threats to life of people, particularly children in winter and summer.

Human-caused climate changes lead to the deaths of at least 150,000 people around the world every year, says Waheed Jamali Executive Director Society for Environmental Actions, Re-Construction and Humanitarian (SEARCH) response.

Referring to a report, Jamali said children, the elderly, and those in disadvantaged communities are the most vulnerable to such exacerbations. “Extreme cold, heat waves, floods, droughts, windstorms, and wildfires bring viral and other diseases like malaria, dengue, atopic dermatitis, scabies, seborrhoea dermatitis, keratoderma, eczema and others. He asked the government to adopt a positive approach and allocate special health budget to tackle climate change diseases and ensure county population free of climate change diseases.

“Sea level rise is already putting low-lying coastal populations at risk, and intense rainfall events are projected to increase with climate change. This increases the risk of flooding, which can introduce chemicals, pesticides, and heavy metals into water systems and increase the risk of water-borne disease outbreak. Droughts, which are expected to become more common in the United States, can destroy crops and grazing land, reduce the quantity and quality of water resources, and increase risk of fire,” Jamali said.

He said like vectorborne and waterborne infectious diseases are also caused by climate change. During times of drought, water scarcity results in poor sanitation, and much of the population can be exposed to potentially contaminated water.” An epidemic of cholera could emerge in the wake of a severe drought. Like drought, excess rainfall and flooding can also contribute to epidemics of waterborne infectious diseases,” Jamali concluded.

A senior doctor at Dow University of Health Sciences, Qutubuddin Khuhro said with the onset of winter, a variety of ailments like cholera, dengue, malaria, influenza, cough, meningitis, atopic dermatitis, scabies emerge in Pakistan, particularly in rural areas and backward areas of cities due to worst cleanliness conditions. He said that children are more vulnerable to these diseases, therefore, parents should take precautionary measures to save them. He suggested to government to allocate special health budget to tackle climate change diseases.

He also asked environment and health organisations to raise awareness about climate change diseases and play due role in eradication of the same along with federal and provincial governments so as to ensure healthy nation.

Dr Qutubuddin said the human body takes time to adjust to any kind of climate change like cold and hot season. “Every year season changes, human body takes time to absorb it, giving infections an opportunity to attack them. During this period of adjustment to the changing season, the body’s immunity tends to be low and therefore the body is susceptible to attacks from viruses and bacteria,” he informed.

He said as soon as the body experiences a drop in the external temperature, the process to get accustomed to the new climate begins. This is the time when most people start to suffer from ailments like the common cold, coughs, sore throats, and the flu.

“Some of the other common winter ailments include dry and itchy skin, seasonal allergies, chest congestion, and runny noses. People suffering from diseases like arthritis and asthma suffer even more as their symptoms aggravate greatly during this period of winters,” Dr Qutubuddin concluded.

A WHO report estimates the future global burden of disease that will result from climate change. It is predicted that by 2030 there will be 10% more diarrheal disease than there would have been with no climate change and that it will primarily affect the health of young children; indeed, the impact on children might well be amplified by the effects of such diseases on malnutrition, development, and cognition. If global temperatures increase by 2 to 3°C, as expected, it is estimated that the population at risk for malaria will increase by 3 to 5%, which means that millions of additional people would probably become infected with malaria each year.

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