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With Around 250,000 Deaths Per Year, Climate Change Is A Deadly Nemesis

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WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.
Globally, the amount of reported weather-related natural catastrophes has more than tripled since the 1960s.

In 2014, the WHO declared that climate change would produce with it malaria, diarrhoea, heat stress and malnutrition, killing that many more people yearly around the globe from 2030 to 2050. A research paper, co-authored by Sir Andrew Haines, believes that our health is much more unsafe because of climate change, and he considers 2,50,000 deaths as a “conservative estimation.”

Although global warming may produce some localised advantages, such as lesser winter deaths in warm climates and improved food production in certain areas, the overall health impacts of a dynamic environment are expected to be overwhelmingly adverse. Climate change concerns social and environmental determinants of health such as clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and safe shelter.

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Which communities will be affected the most by climate change?

Natural Disasters

Globally, the amount of reported weather-related natural catastrophes has more than tripled since the 1960s. Every year, these disasters affect in over 60,000 deaths, largely in developing nations. Half of the world’s inhabitants live within 60 km of the sea.

Instances of floods have also been increasing, and increased precipitation is expected to grow during the current century. Floods pollute freshwater supplies, sharpen the risk of water-borne diseases, and form breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects such as mosquitoes. 

Rising sea levels

The Climate Central research, printed in the journal Nature Communications, suspects cities populated by 36 million Indians now to be in danger of chronic flooding by 2050, much higher than the five million assumed earlier. Globally, the number could be as significant as 300 million people, approximately four times the earlier estimates.

In 2007 alone, floods emanating from monsoon showers killed more than 2,000 persons and uprooted more than 20 million persons in Bangladesh, India, and in Nepal.

In the Himalaya region of South Asia, the incidence of GLOFs (Glacial lake outburst floods) increased from 1950 to 2000, and GLOFs have transpired lately in Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Bhutan.

Infections Due To Flood

Climatic conditions significantly affect water-borne infections and diseases carried through insects, snails or other cold-blooded creatures. Variations in climate are destined to extend the transmission seasons of major vector-borne diseases and to modify their geographic area. For example, climate change is predicted to widen significantly the territory of China, where the snail-borne disease schistosomiasis transpired. 

Image Credit: Getty Images

Faecal-oral transmission of diseases is of special interest in regions such as South-Asia because of limited access to clean drinking water and sanitation. In developing nations, an uptick in diarrhoeal disease, cholera, dysentery, and typhoid is of special concern. For example, after flooding in West Bengal in 1988, cholera was believed to be the cause of an outbreak of diarrhoea that ended in 276 deaths.

Flooding can also continue to increase vector and rodent-borne infectious diseases. For instance, accumulations of stagnant water produce breeding spots for mosquitoes, perhaps aiding in the spread of malaria. Other researches have associated flooding in Bangladesh and parts of India with breaks of rotavirus and leptospirosis.

Increase In Temperatures

Extreme high air temperatures add directly to mortality from a cardiovascular and respiratory infection, especially among older adults. In the of summer 2003 in Europe, for instance, higher than 70,000 excess deaths were reported High temperatures also increase the levels of ozone and other pollutants in the air that worsen the cardiovascular and respiratory infection.

Pollen and other aeroallergen levels are also more powerful in extreme heat. These can trigger asthma, which afflicts around 300 million people. Continuous temperature increases are presumed to increase this load.

Populations At Risk

All communities will be affected by climate change, but some are more exposed than others. People residing in small islands, developing countries, and coastal areas, megacities, and mountainous, and polar regions are especially vulnerable.

Poverty in India
Children of road workers near Rishikesh, India. Credits- Wiki wand

Children living in developing countries are among the most unsafe to the resulting health hazards and are vulnerable because of the health consequences. The health effects are also foreseen to be more rigorous for the elderly and people with illnesses or pre-existing medical ailments.

Areas with weak health infrastructure, primarily in developing countries, will be the least able to cope without support to adapt and respond.

Several records prove that the poorest people, already experiencing the highest rates of undernutrition, will be the most vulnerable to climate change. Indian agriculture and thereby India’s food production is extremely vulnerable to climate change largely because the sector stays highly sensitive to monsoon variability.

About 65% of India’s cropped area is rain-fed. With its large population and rapid rate of urbanisation, India may encounter multiple health and nutrition threats owing to climate change.

India is one of the top rankers in various forms of malnutrition globally. With only about one in 10 children getting sufficient nutrition, we ought to keep other potentially influential to health and nutrition variables promising.

Many reasons are adding to the poor nutritional status of our people, traversing from food scarcity to (unhealthy) food surplus, raised consumption of refined cereals, simple sugars and salt, etc. However, unfavourable variables like climate change, pollution, added to this situation can further catalyse plunging of the public health nutrition (PHN) tables.

Climate change and poverty index
Source: World Bank report, “Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty”, www.worldbank.org/climate

Risks For India

Around 1.5 million people may die in India each year due to severe heat by 2100, new research has found. The survey led by Tata Centre for Development at the University of Chicago, USA said that sustained high emissions of greenhouse gases are predicted to lead to a 4-degree Celsius rise in medium annual temperature in India by 2100. 

India felt its second-longest heatwave, with temperatures touching 50.8°C in July 2019. It was the hottest month on record globally. 

The projected death rate is approximately as high as the prevailing death rate from all contagious diseases in India today. Six states, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, are expected to witness more than half of the rising death rate from increasing temperatures.

Children with their containers are silhouetted against the sun as they wait to fill drinking water from a water tanker provided by the state-run Delhi Jal (water) Board on a hot summer day in New Delhi, India, May 11, 2015. Temperature in Delhi on Monday reached 42.3 degree Celsius (108.14 degree Fahrenheit), according to India’s metrological department website. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee – RTX1CFYJ

Expert Views

Amir Jina of the Climate Impact Lab said that having seen 2,500 deaths due to a heatwave in 2015, the future is forecasted to be even more devastating if India and the world do not change the path to alleviate the harmful impacts of climate change. “If the world pledges to the Paris Agreement and frequently updates its responsibilities, the study evaluates India’s excess death rate from high heat will be cut more than 80%,” he further stated.

The study was issued as India’s energy usage is suspected to more than double by 2040, with fossil fuels serving as the primary source. The country’s 5% rise in coal demand last year contributed to a nearly equal portion in its carbon emissions.

India is currently the world’s third-largest carbon emitter.

Michael Greenstone, faculty leader at the Tata Centre and a co-founder of the Climate Impact Lab, stated that the continued dependence on fossil fuels would hurt India in the years to come.

Possible Solutions

Awareness is required to render and distribute information on the consequences of climate change on human health, and opportunities to improve health while decreasing carbon emissions. More scientific studies and evidence will help to create links between climate change and health and promote a global research plan.

Additionally, the most vulnerable groups should seek assistance and be supported by the developing nations and governments around the world by target-based prevention and mitigation of risks.

ClimateChange

In developed countries, flood control efforts, sanitation infrastructure, and monitoring activities to identify and regulate outbreaks reduce disease risks created by flooding are crucial. Using food technologists to devise food storage and processing methods can decrease climate-related food safety matters and assist in maintaining the nutritional value of foods. These policies can also help in decreasing food waste.

Developing and strengthening the ability of public health professionals and allied forces can be utilised for the prevention and management of climate change-related problems. Raising the number of healthcare facilities and staff can promote access to healthcare for exposed populations, mainly the rural poor.

Editor’s note: Do you want to know where India stands in the Human Development Index (2019)? You can access the report, released on December 9 (2019), here.

This post has been written by a YKA Climate Correspondent as part of #WhyOnEarth. Join the conversation by adding a post here.
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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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