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Climate Change and the Adverse Impact on Human Health: A case on Pakistan

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Pakistan is in the list of ten most vulnerable countries to the effects of Climate Change. Floods, drought, extreme temperatures, and changes in climatic patterns not only cause economic upheavals and loss of human lives, but exacerbate the damage caused in the form of breakouts and chronic diseases. Lack of proper healthcare, sanitation and basic resources further increase the susceptibility to diseases. Climate Change, it seems, has descended upon us with a plan.

According to Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Mushahidullah Khan, reported in a Dawn news report, people living in urban areas of Pakistan, including Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Peshawar are more at risk because of increasing air and water pollution. Particularly vulnerable are the children and the elderly. The World Health Organization report on Pakistan states that in the coming years, there will be increased number of cases of avian influenza, malaria, cholera and dengue fever.

Some of the ailments that have increased because of climate change and rising pollution levels are malaria, lung cancer and respiratory diseases like asthma, skin problems, and other chronic diseases. A study by a team of experts from the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, states that rapidly increasing heat stress due to climate change has a profound effect on human health and causes many diseases. Malaria is a very prevalent and infectious disease in Pakistan. Variations in the climatic conditions are conducive for mosquito breeding and their reproduction. Standing water bodies caused by floods and increased rainfall serve as favorable mosquito habitats.

The aftermath of the 2011 floods in the country saw an outbreak of communicable diseases according to World Health Organization report. After the massive floods, the flood victims were drastically prone to contracting diarrhea, cholera, malaria, acute respiratory infections and skin diseases due to poor hygienic conditions.

The adverse impact of Climate Change on human health is not limited to rural areas alone. Year 2015 saw a deadly heatwave grip the metropolitan city of Karachi and its outskirts, resulting in a death toll exceeding 1000, according to Dawn News report. These frequent heat waves in the region cause severe rashes, cramps, exhaustion and dehydration, a common cause of hyperthermia and death among infants.  A study by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), reveals that by 2100, parts of South Asia could become uninhabitable due to rising temperatures brought about by Climate Change. The areas that are likely to be among worst affected include Northern India, Southern Pakistan and parts of Bangladesh, home to 1.5 billion people. If the study materializes into reality, millions of people will be forced to migrate due to unbearable temperatures, that will also adversely affect agriculture and livestock. Heatwaves in the South Asian region have already killed hundreds of people, with a death toll of 3500 in 2015 alone. The future offers a grim picture unless we take drastic measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impact.

Coal powered stations not only release greenhouse gases in the environment, but also emit tiny airborne particles of heavy metals that can cause respiratory and lung diseases, eye infections and various skin ailments. Yet, coal is a widely used fuel for generating power in South Asia. New coal power stations continue to be planned, according to this report from environmental organization, Greenpeace. Pollutants emitted from coal based power stations are thus projected to triple by 2030. A recent report by US based organization, The State of Global Air, reveals that China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are prone to the most extreme levels of air pollution. This is gravely affecting the health of people, as the air is full of toxic pollutants that cause fatal diseases. A study done by Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, USA, finds Particulate Matter (PM) size of 2.5 micrometers to be the fifth largest factor contributing to global mortality. PM 2.5 is emitted by coal-fired power plants as mentioned in this study by International Energy Agency (IEA).

Food scarcity is one of the serious impacts of climate change in the world. Millions of children are vulnerable to contracting ailments as a direct result of climate change, including malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and malnutrition. Malnutrition is responsible for half of worldwide deaths of children under five years of age.

The grave impact of climate change, rising pollution levels in the air and water demand strict actions on our part. The world needs to realize priorities before climate change renders all remedial action useless, and shift to cleaner energy and greener practices to save the environment. Mitigation strategies like early flood warning systems, preventive measures against dehydration during severe heatwaves, and proper sanitation and hygiene facilities are essential to lessen the drastic impacts on human health. The impacts of climate change will not stay restricted to a few regions – not for long. The effects will reverberate throughout our biosphere. We are in this together. And the earlier we realize, the better chance we have at saving our generations to come.

 

 

 

 

 

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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