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Health - August 11, 2022

Adverse climate change effect posing threat to public health

Golam Mostafa Jibon: The adverse impact of climate change is throwing the country’s public health at serious risk day by day. If the necessary measures are not taken right now, the situation may be worsened further in future, experts said.
They said, Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries due to climate change. The far-reaching effects of climate change pose a major threat to public health. However, its impact on human health is not the same everywhere. Because of different regions have different conditions, sensitivity and adaptability.
In the meantime, the adverse effects of the climate change have started to fall in all areas, the matter has come to focus through international and domestic studies conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). World leaders are also looking for a way out of this. Because reducing health risks related to climate change is one of the steps towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Experts said that, the amount of carbon-dioxide and nitrous-oxide is increasing abnormally with the impact of climate change. In contrary, the amount of oxygen is decreasing. Bangladesh’s seasonal diversity is getting lost. Recently people of the country are experiencing that the summer season is getting longer, while winter season is getting warmer. Normal rainfall is being disrupted as well as monsoonal rainfall is decreasing. The trend of untimely storms is increasing. The salinity of the soil especially in the coastal reason is also increasing with the disruption of the natural balance. New diseases are constantly being born in it. Diseases like various viruses and infectious diseases, respiratory diseases, skin diseases, anemia, diarrhoea, cholera, hypertension, heart disease, malnutrition, malaria and dengue are increasing. The incident of mental illness and suicide is also on the rise. Even maternal, fetal and newborn health is having a negative impact on the life expectancy of people. Experts said, the adverse effects of climate change are affecting everyone. Of them, young people are being affected most. The unborn child is facing insecurity.
A recent report published by the World Bank highlighted about the association of various infectious diseases and mental health with climate change. Weather is affecting people’s anxiety and depression. For example, people are less anxious in summer than in monsoon. As the temperature and humidity rise, so does anxiety. Due to climate change, the levels of mental illnesses including respiratory diseases and mosquito-bite diseases have increased in Bangladesh.
According to a WHO report published in October 2021, human health around the world is under threat due to climate change.
According to a study by ICDDR, the amount of salt entering into the body of women with drinking water has more caused of abortions in women in coastal areas than in other parts of the country. In addition, the rate of uterine disease, high blood pressure, pregnancy convulsions, abortion and even premature birth has increased. As a result, the reproductive capacity of women in this region is decreasing day by day. According to the Air Quality Life Index published by the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute in 2021, the average life expectancy in Bangladesh has decreased by about five years and four months due to air pollution. About seven years and seven months have decreased in Dhaka.
According to research, the air pollution rate in each of the country’s 64 districts is at least 3 times higher than WHO guidelines. And according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the average life expectancy of people in Bangladesh is about 72 years and 6 months.
As per the Life Index study, air pollution reduced the average life expectancy by about 2 years and 8 months in 1998, while it stood at 5 years and 4 months in 2019.
A UNICEF report titled ‘Climate crisis is essentially a child rights crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI)’ published in 2021, stated that, children in Bangladesh are at very high risk of the effects of climate change. Bangladesh ranks 15th among the 65 countries in the world that are at a very high risk of being affected by the effects of climate change.
The official announcement to decarbonize the health sector came at the Glasgow Climate Conference held in November 2021. About 47 countries including Bangladesh have pledged to reduce carbon emissions from their health sector and make it climate-friendly, according to the COP-26 health program. Among them, 42 countries including Bangladesh will develop sustainable and low-carbon health sectors.
According to the WHO, between 2030 and 2050, climate change will increase the number of deaths due to malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat by an estimated 2.5 million more each year. By 2030, direct health losses are estimated to be between $200 and $4 billion per year. Eminent medical scientist, academician Professor Dr. Liaquat Ali said that, climate change has an impact on physical, mental and infectious or non-infectious diseases. Explaining the matter, he revealed that, the temperature is increasing due to climate change. The type of pathogen is changing. Infectious diseases are gaining new heights. Chronic diseases including diabetes and hypertension are also directly affected by climate change. When the temperature increases, the changes that occur in the body as a result of various chemical reactions increase the chronic diseases. Diseases that used to be confined to forests are now spreading to the human body as a result of deforestation. Another direct and indirect effect of climate change is salinity.
Liaquat Ali further said, the amount of salinity in our food cycle is increasing. It increases hypertension. By increasing the use of different types of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, these pesticides are entering the human body again through different means, which increases various types of cancerous diseases.
On the other hand, chest disease is increasing due to air pollution. Various harmful substances enter our body with breathing. Additional pressure is created on the kidneys and liver to remove these harmful substances from the body. Many substances remain in the body. Pollution also increases mental disturbance.
Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research Institute (IEDCR) advisor and public health expert Dr. Mushtaq Hossain said, due to climate change, people will face health risks and malnutrition both directly and indirectly. Children will suffer more. It will have a negative effect on pregnant women and even the unborn child. He said, since the salinity of the water will increase, people will suffer more from infectious diseases and stomachache due to lack of clean water. Food borne diseases will occur. If the temperature rises, mosquito-borne dengue, Chikungunya and malaria will increase.
The joint general secretary of Paribesh Bachao Andolon and preventive medicine expert Dr. Lelin Chowdhury said that, “If the sea level rises, some coastal areas including a part of the Sundarbans will sink and salt water will invade central Bangladesh. This will affect the balance of both the environment and ecology. Environmentally-induced diseases and natural disasters will leave public health vulnerable. Increase in salinity will affect crop production. People will then turn to alternative foods. There is a risk of developing nutritional deficiencies.”

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