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Climate Change

Climate Change And Increase In Diarrhoeal Disease – What’s The Connection?

How is climate change impacting public health and increasing the load of diseases like Diarrhoea, which is also a leading killer of children globally

Globally, Nearly 1.7 Billion Cases Of Childhood Diarrhoeal Disease Are Recorded Every Year: WHO
Climate change and increase in diarrhoeal disease - what’s the connection? Dr. Aditya S Chowti from Fortis Hospital gives a lowdown

New Delhi: Globally, climate change is threatening access to clean air, safe drinking water, nutritious food supply and safe shelter. World Health Organisation states that the lower and middle-income countries are particulated impacted with rising sea levels, frequent and extreme weather events, heatwaves and droughts, forest fires and increase in mosquito-borne diseases like malaria. Research shows that 3.6 billion people already live in areas highly susceptible to climate change. WHO further states that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 2,50,000 additional deaths per year, from undernutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress alone.

A recently published study from the University of Surrey also highlighted the connection between climate change and diarrhoea, which is a leading killer of children. The irony is that the disease is both preventable and treatable. However, the disease still remain a challenge. According to UNICEF, Diarrhoea accounts for approximately 9 per cent of all deaths among children under age 5 worldwide in 2021. This translates to over 1,200 young children dying each day, or about 444,000 children a year, despite the availability of a simple treatment solution.

Also Read: Climate Change Is For Real, Kashmir’s Winter Wipeout Is The Proof

To understand the connection further between climate change and Diarrhoea and how India should be prepared to tackle the crisis, team Banega Swasth India speaks with Dr. Aditya S Chowti, Senior consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru. Here’s what we discussed:

Talking about the impact of Climate Change and its extent, Dr Aditya S Chowti said,

Climatic change is happening across and we are all experiencing it. There has been a lot of change in temperature, because of which we are seeing an increase in diseases and illnesses. There is a change in our rainfall patterns, some areas are receiving more rainfall, while some are seeing less, which again is having a lot of effect on public health.

Sharing an example of how the planet’s biological clock is disturbed, Dr Chowti further said,

This year, we did see a small snippet about Kashmir, which received zero snowfall till January and that is the place which usually receives a lot of snowfall. All this is happening because of climate change and it will obviously affect our day-to-day living, our immunity, the way we live, hygiene, sanitation, all comes into play in this particular matter.

Dr Aditya said that now what we are experiencing is the concept that our winters are becoming summers and summers are becoming winters. He said,

Because of this disruption, infections and diseases will see a rise. For example, a particular place which is getting more than required rainfall can be infected with water stagnation, which can increase the disease load of widely spread diseases such as dengue or even gastroenteritis.

Also Read: COP28 Roundup: The Hits, Misses And What’s In It For India

Explaining climate change and diarrhoea link, Dr Chowti said,

Diarrhoeal disease used to be seasonal. We used to see a lot of it in the rainy season. Sometimes, we experienced it in the summer seasons as well. But, with this change of seasons, the effect of temperature and rain has been disturbed and there is an upward rise in the diarrhoeal diseases. We’re seeing a lot of them in the paediatric age group. Secondly, now this particular disease is also one of the symptoms of the viral illnesses, which are also on a rise because of climate change.

Underlining the impact of Diarrhoea, climate change and what it means for a country like India, Dr Chowti said,

If you look at the world picture, there are certain parts of the world, which do have a lot of viral related deaths. We do see a lot of younger population suffering as well and it could be because of improper sanitation. It could also be because of lack of immunity, basic facilities and also treatment facilities. Diarrhoea is an important concern for India as well. India needs to be a little more careful about detecting and treating diarrhoeal illnesses. Not every diarrhoeal disease is because of a food or a waterborne infection, it can be viral in nature, it can be because of climatic change. So, now is the time, India needs to be forceful enough to detect and diagnose and treat these illnesses.

Explaining how India should be prepared to deal with the health related fallout of climate change, Dr Chowti said,

We are the world’s most populous nation. It’s obvious that population does have a negative effect on public health. And of course, with the climate change coming, things are getting difficult. Things are getting worse to tackle. Firstly, we need to see health from a grassroots level. We have to be more forceful in getting down to the last man or child or woman in the country, the rural areas. Education and awareness are very important tools. We need to be aware not only about climate change but also about practices of general health, sanitation, even things like safe cooking, clothing, washing, hand hygiene. And, of course, it’s not just limited to the rural areas. Even the urban areas need that kind of education. We are just looking at diarrhoea as one disease, but we do see a lot of other systems involved, like the respiratory system. And if you see and if you compare, the patients are more in the urban areas that are being affected. And due to this, of course, there’s a all round low immunity level, which is going on in our country. For a country like India, awareness and prevention is the way forward rather than treatment and diagnosis.

Also Read: What Are The Learnings From 2023, The Year India Saw Extreme Weather Events

Dr Chowti ended the conversation by giving few quick tips, which can help individual prevent diarrhoeal illness and tackle the growing crisis of climate change. He added,

“Climate change affects all of us. It’s not that if you’re staying in a high rise apartment, you’re better off, or if you’re staying, down somewhere in a crowded area, you’re better off. It affects all of us. The degree of its effects will vary. My tips for individuals for tackling the growing crisis will be:

– Pass on the information and awareness to the lesser fortunate. Educate them on good immunity, sanitation, nutrition and nourishment

– Understand, this is not a passing phase. Things are getting worse as we go ahead. And, we have all seen what kind of devastation, a small microorganism can do to us. So it is now time to wake up and hear the call of nature. We must improve ourselves.

– Live a healthy lifestyle

– Help in prevention of all unnecessary diseases and conditions by following a few simple steps – keep yourself fit, eat good and keep yourself and your surroundings clean. Maintain basic sanitation measures.”

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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