Climate’s clear connect: Healthcare systems resilient to global warming are a challenge for Africa

Extreme weather events triggered by climate change are a drag on the capacity of Africa’s already-stretched healthcare systems 

By Tshepo Phakisi
Published: Friday 31 March 2023

Tshepo Phakisi is Médecins Sans Frontières’ climate engagement coordinator in southern AfricaClimate change impacts cripple the ability of healthcare systems to respond to outbreaks.

In most African countries, healthcare systems are already struggling to provide basic healthcare services to their populations.

So, when climate-induced outbreaks happen — and mostly spread in high intensity and frequency — it is hard for these stretched healthcare systems to cope. African countries must urgently build climate-resilient health systems.

A climate-resilient health system is one that is designed and implemented to withstand and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

It recognises how climate change significantly influences human health, and the system seeks to address these climate-induced challenges with a multidisciplinary approach.

These systems can anticipate, prevent, prepare for, and manage climate-related health risks.

Several countries, including Mozambique, have made efforts to achieve a climate-resilient health system. This is significant because, in 2022, the country was ranked ninth among 191 countries in the World Health Organization’s Index for Risk Management, demonstrating commitment to saving lives as the odds are stacked against the country.

Mozambique offers a good example of how a health adaptation plan can effectively be implemented despite many challenges, like the inadequacy of healthcare in remote locations, where communities are most vulnerable.

The country developed a comprehensive approach by increasing the capacity to monitor and respond to climate-sensitive diseases, promote community-based adaptation and to strengthen health infrastructure.

The success of this initiative is based on collaboration with not just organisations and other government ministries but also through partnering with communities.

Tshepo Phakisi is Médecins Sans Frontières’ climate engagement coordinator in southern Africa

This was first published in the 16-31 March, 2023 print edition of Down To Earth

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