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COP28: Climate Change is a Health Crisis :: Uganda Radionetwork
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COP28: Climate Change is a Health Crisis

They observed that climate change is directly contributing to humanitarian emergencies spared by heatwaves, wildfires, floods, tropical storms and hurricanes. Those and similar climate shocks are only increasing in scale, frequency and intensity.
Health has made it onto the agenda of a UN climate conference, and health advocates attending the Conference of Parties-COP28 in Dubai said the topic was long overdue for discussion as climate inaction is costing lives and impacting health every single day.

They observed that climate change is directly contributing to humanitarian emergencies spared by heatwaves, wildfires, floods, tropical storms and hurricanes.  They cited the higher mean temperatures that have been recorded over the years, with 2023 set to be the hottest on record, the unprecedented rate of melting ice sheets, wildfires that have made the air hazardous in some regions, and floods that regularly threaten to contaminate drinking water.

Against this backdrop, more and more people are being affected by disasters and climate-sensitive diseases, exacerbating some existing health threats and creating new public health challenges.

According to the World Health Organization, only considering a few health indicators, an additional 250,000 deaths per year will occur worldwide in the next decades because of climate change, adding that more than three billion people already live in areas highly susceptible to climate change.

WHO estimates that air pollution kills some seven million people worldwide every year, while millions of people are exposed to extreme weather-related events each year. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause tens of thousands of additional deaths per year from – undernutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress alone. These impacts on health and daily lives are being felt across the world, and indigenous communities often bear the brunt.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told delegates at COP28 that it was long overdue for talks around environmental health, rising sea levels, and melting glaciers to include the direct impacts of such climate shocks on human health.

“The climate crisis is a health crisis, but for too long, health has been a footnote in climate discussions,” Dr Tedros Adhanom told delegates gathered in an auditorium in Dubai’s iconic Expo City, where much of the action at COP28 has been taking place this far. he reiterated WHO’s welcome of the new declaration on acceleration actions to protect people from growing climate impacts that was endorsed on Saturday during the World Climate Action Summit.

According to WHO, the climate crisis drives the extreme weather that is taking lives around the world. Moreover, the same emissions that are warming our planet are also poisoning the air we breathe. According to Dr Tedros, reducing the health impacts of climate change demands action across all of society, including steps to decarbonize energy systems to reduce emissions by at least 43 per cent over the next seven years.

Ministers of health, environment and finance delivered addresses alongside notable figures like Bill Gates and US climate envoy John Kerry, all gathered at the Al Waha auditorium to consider actions to address the impact of climate change on human health.

This first-ever dedicated ‘Health Day’ at a COP is highlighting several key events, including public-private partnerships for healthcare climate action and unlocking relevant financial and political commitments.

The delegates have now signed a COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health acknowledging the need for governments to protect communities and prepare healthcare systems to cope with climate-related health impacts such as extreme heat, air pollution and infectious diseases.

“The impacts of climate change are already at our door. They have become one of the greatest threats to human health in the 21st century. Governments have now rightly recognized health as a crucial element of climate action” said Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and COP28 President.

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