Press Release: REBRANDING CLIMATE CHANGE AS A PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE

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“I assure all foreign governments that Nigeria will become a more forceful and constructive player in the global fight against climate change”

– PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI

A new approach to climate change advocacy is here. A shift from impersonal discussions about greenhouse gas emissions and power plants to a very personal one: YOUR HEALTH.

It’s very easy to brush aside debates involving major international corporations, but who would not stop to think and perhaps do something about their own health, or the health of their children and loved ones?
This new way of talking about climate change is “Rebranding Climate Change as a Public Health Issue”. How climate change affects a person’s health is the new approach to the subject.

GOAL:
Rebranding Climate Change as Public Health issue in Nigeria as a strategic pilot programme for winning the war against impacts of climate change in Nigeria and the African continent.

CLIMATE CHANGE IS THE BIGGEST GLOBAL HEALTH THREAT OF THE 21ST CENTURY

[NIGERIA+COAT+OF+ARMSThe Federal Government of Nigeria has signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Rebranding the impact of Climate Change on health as a Public Health Issue in Nigeria and Africa. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Federal Ministry of Health and the Africa Clean Energy Summit (the consortium of Always Green Power & Systems Limited and The Environment Communications Limited).
The Federal Government is desirous of rebranding the impact of Climate Change on health as a Public Health Issue in Nigeria and the consortium has been mandated come up with strategic programmes towards the implementation of interventions for rebranding the impact of climate change on health in Nigeria and the African continent.

While signing on behalf of the ministry, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Mr. Linus Awute, explained that the Federal Government is collaborating with the consortium on strategic programmes towards the implementation of interventions for rebranding the impact of climate change on health in Nigeria.

Some of the expected deliverables from the joint efforts are National Roundtable on Health Care Workers, Nationwide Campaigns, Capacity Building, Seminars, workshops, trainings and National Conference, Clean Energy for powering clinics, hospitals, and storage of vaccines, water purification and use of Clean Cookstoves, Solar Water Heaters and many more.

According to the Memorandum of Understanding, resources shall be mobilized from private sector organizations, international development partners and private businesses.

CLIMATE CHANGE IS THE DEFINING ISSUE OF THE 21ST CENTURY

As suggested by experts, with warmth diseases surface. Climate greatly influences some of the most deadly and widespread diseases currently affecting millions of people across the world. With disease-bearing insects such as mosquitoes able to multiply in staggering numbers thanks to even small rises in temperature, global warming looks set to facilitate the spread of diseases like Malaria, West Nile virus and Dengue fever to parts of the planet usually untouched.

The increased number of sick people could even overwhelm public health services, especially in poor or unprepared countries. The Deadly Dozen is a group of 12 diseases that have been identified as those most likely to spread due to global warming. It includes Avian ‘Flu, Cholera, Plague, Ebola and Tuberculosis.

THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON HUMAN HEALTH IS ALARMING

The recent happenings in Africa has brought into focus, that the commonly held misperception that climate change is solely an environmental problem needs revisiting. Mobilizing Public health professionals in Nigeria and Africa through the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria is one of the well-conceived global strategies towards explaining the connections between the rapidly emerging threats associated with climate change and our personal and collective national health and well-being for enthroning sustainable transformational community development agenda in Nigeria and Africa.

Around the world, variations in climate are affecting, in profoundly adverse ways, the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. We are losing our capacity to sustain human life in good health.

Let us imagine a scenario where climate change is portrayed as increase in childhood asthma, or a surge in infectious diseases, or even an influx of heat-induced heart attacks. Would that have more meaning for the average citizen of the world? This is exactly what some climate change experts are hoping, as they steer the conversation about global warming toward the public health issues it raises. Indoor air pollution is responsible for the death of over 95,000 women and children annually in Nigeria alone.

mosquitomalariaAir pollution is the single greatest environmental health risk we face. In 2012 alone, exposure to indoor and outdoor pollutants killed more than 7 million people one in eight deaths worldwide.

Exposure to smoke from traditional cook stoves causes 2 million premature deaths annually and contributes to a range of chronic illnesses and acute health impacts. Women and children also spend hours each day collecting firewood which is becoming harder and harder to find.

Under-nutrition already accounts for 3 million deaths each year in the world’s poorest regions. Rising temperatures and more variable rainfall patterns are expected to reduce crop yields, further compromising food security.

Floods are increasing in frequency and intensity, creating breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects. Mosquito-borne diseases, like malaria, are particularly sensitive to changes in heat and humidity. What will happen if rising temperatures accelerate the lifecycle of the malaria parasite?
According to WHO estimates, climate change will cause an additional 250 000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050. Most will likely perish from malaria, diarrhoea, heat exposure and under-nutrition.

Children and the elderly will be among the most vulnerable. Areas with weak health infrastructure will be least able to cope. Developing countries will be hardest hit. The health gaps we have been trying hard to close may grow even wider. We know that climate change mitigation can yield substantial and immediate health benefits. It is time now to translate knowledge into action.

Our planet is losing its capacity to sustain human life in good health. Very recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its most disturbing report to date, with a strong focus on the consequences for health. That report also underscored specific health interventions that strengthen resilience to climate change and contribute to sustainable development.

As it noted, the most effective adaptation strategies for health involve measures, like immunization, maternal and child health services, and the provision of clean water and adequate sanitation, that depend on well-functioning basic public health infrastructures.

Many of the world’s most worrisome diseases have transmission cycles that are profoundly shaped by conditions of heat and humidity and patterns of rainfall. As one important example, malaria parasites and the mosquitoes that transmit them are highly sensitive to climate variability, which has been repeatedly linked to epidemics.

“…In the 20th century we’ve understood that environment has an impact on public health…there are a whole host of public health impacts that are going to it homes, so we’ve got to do better in protecting the vulnerable. Ultimately, though, all our families are going to be vulnerable. You cannot cordon yourself off from the air or climate; communities and families should start putting pressure on elected officials to try to make something happen to reduce the impacts of climate change…”

– President Barack Obama on the link between climate change and public health

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