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How Is Climate Change Impacting Our Health?

Have you been coughing more and for no reason? Does your neighbourhood get flooded more often? Have you been feeling the heat even in the middle of winter? Dr Vanessa Kerry, Special Envoy Climate Change and Health, WHO, explains what’s going on

Study Reveals Effect Of Climate Change On Human Brain

New Delhi: You have spent the past few winters packing and unpacking your woolies. You find yourself driving into thick fog one January morning and the next morning you are sweating in your sweatshirt.

And rain? it’s as if it has developed its own mind! Once the rainy season sets in, it just sets in forever. It rains and rains and rains and floods our existence like there’s no tomorrow.

The abrupt change in weather patterns has turned the entire ecosystem upside down. Among other things, it has led to diseases, many fatal and never known before.

Dr Vanessa Kerry, Special Envoy Climate Change and Health, World Health Organization, elaborates on the impact of climate change on human health in our first episode of Banega Swasth India Global Series.

‘Climate Change Is Impacting Everything Around Us’

Talking about the telltale signs of climate change, Dr Kerry, said,

Climate change is impacting human health across the world. Year 2023, was the hottest year in the history with most numbers of extreme weather events taking place.

She also said that we as humans face a lot of direct impact from the climate crisis such as deaths from drowning, wildfires, extreme heat that impacts people’s ability to go to work. Dr Kerry said,

World is also seeing a rise in infectious diseases such malaria and Dengue. By 2080, over 60 per cent of the world will be impacted by Dengue.

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

Dr Kerry, who is also the CEO of Global Seed Health (a non-profit organization, which helps to provide nursing and medical training support in resource-limited countries) further explained that climate change is also responsible for a rise in non-communicable diseases that impacts our cardiovascular, lung and kidneys health. She said,

Climate change also worsens mother’s outcomes in pregnancy and increases the risk of preterm birth.

Highlighting a grim reality that highlights the climate emergency, Dr Kerry said,

Climate change is a public health emergency and we expect that an additional 4.7 billion, over half the world’s population is going to be at risk of vector-borne diseases by 2070. And that’s not that far away.

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

‘India Is One Of The Most Impacted Countries In The World From Climate Change’

On India’s stand when it comes to climate change, Dr Kerry said,

As much as 90 per cent of India’s total area now lies in extreme heat danger zones. In 2021, India lost about 160 billion dollars in income. That’s over 5 per cent of the country’s GDP, from extreme heat.

Dr Kerry further highlighted that climate change will spread over years like COVID. She said,

We really must be investing in our primary care and our healthcare workforce and ensure that the health systems can respond to the climate changes.

‘Every Individual Should Act On Climate Change’

Talking about the role of individuals in tackling climate crisis, Dr Kerry said,

There is a moral responsibility to rise to this moment and change the way we do business, so that we are protecting our community, protecting our future, protecting our children.

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

‘Climate Change Is Affecting Our Mental Health’

Dr Kerry ended the discussion by talking about climate change and its impact on people’s mental health. She said,

Extreme weather events directly impact our mental wellbeing. The traumatic events, such as witnessing serious injury or death or having to recover from a traumatic event, like losing your house or losing someone in your household, are all making a direct impact on our mental health. Heat waves lead to more mental health challenges, including exacerbating psychiatric conditions, leading to increased hospitalizations, suicides, around the world. Direct exposures to climate hazards have a growing number of people with psychological reactions and climate anxiety.

Sharing an anecdote, Dr Kerry signed off,

My daughter, was unable to sleep as an eight year old girl thinking about whether or not the world was going to end. This was the same day that 20,000 people were swept out to sea in Derna, Libya. We are all feeling some level of climate anxiety.

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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