Climate-related emergencies increased by 30% between 2011 and 2021
The number of reported disease outbreaks and climate-related health emergencies in the Greater Horn of Africa region has reached its highest-ever level this century, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Climate-related emergencies in the region increased by 30 per cent between 2011 and 2021, noted the WHO analysis released November 3, 2022. The Horn of Africa refers to the northeastern part of the African continent.
Climate emergencies accounted for 72 per cent of all recorded public health events in 2021. This is a significant increase compared to 58 per cent in 2011, according to Mary Stephen, a public health expert at WHO.
Horn of Africa’s seven countries — Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda — recorded 39 disease outbreaks, flooding and other acute public health events between January 1 and October 30 this year. This is the highest number reported annually since 2000, stated the WHO in a statement.
The outbreaks of anthrax, measles, cholera, yellow fever, chikungunya, meningitis and other infectious diseases accounted for more than 80 per cent of the acute public health events reported in the region. Droughts, floods and other disasters accounted for 18 per cent
The disease outbreaks have exacerbated the crisis faced by the region. The Horn of Africa is facing the worst drought in at least 40 years. At the same time, some parts of the region are shattered by floods and conflicts.
At least 47 million people are already facing acute food shortages. “Food security is also a health crisis,” said Dr Egmond Evers, acting incident manager of WHO greater Horn of Africa response.
Malnourishment impacts health. There is evidence linking cholera and measles with malnutrition, he told at a press conference. Food insecurity due to extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods has forced people to migrate.
The Horn of Africa is home to 4.5 million refugees as well as 12.7 million internally displaced people. The poor state of overcrowded temporary shelters with poor water and sanitation can contribute to an increased risk of outbreaks, he warned.
Vaccination coverage in the region is far below the necessary threshold. Measles vaccination coverage is too low to prevent cases and most countries in the region — including Somalia and Ethiopia — had to deal with measles outbreaks in 2022.
“We must step up critical actions like vaccinations and improve surveillance to prevent outbreaks from getting out of hand. We cannot delay any longer. We must act now,” said Evers.
A total of 132 confirmed Ebola cases, with 53 confirmed deaths, were reported in Uganda November 5, 2022, according to the country’s health ministry.
There has been a rise in the number of Ebola outbreaks since 2000, said Dr Patrick Otim, WHO Africa’s incident manager for the Ebola outbreak in Uganda.
At least 19 of the 32 Ebola outbreaks were recorded in the past decade. This amounts to nearly 50 per cent increase over 10 cases recorded in the previous decade.
The increasing outbreaks of Ebola, a zoonotic disease, have a link with climate change, he told
Africa is the least responsible for global warming, but it is among the first to experience its tragic impact, said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.
So, world leaders must reach an agreement on stemming the rise in temperatures at the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), which is very appropriately taking place in Africa, she said in her statement.
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