African Countries Challenged to Tackle Climate Linked Health Emergencies

By Catherine Nambi

The 3rd International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA 2023) has commenced in Lusaka, Zambia, urging African nations to address climate change in light of rising climate-related health emergencies on the continent.

The conference, attended by African Heads of State, health ministers, scientists, innovators, and researchers, is themed “Breaking Barriers: Repositioning Africa in the Global Health Architecture.”

During the opening ceremony from November 27th to 30th, 2023, Dr. Jean Kaseya, Director-General of Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC), emphasized the need for African countries to enhance disease surveillance and outbreak response due to the escalating climate-linked disease burden.

Dr. Kaseya revealed, “As I speak today, we have 18 countries in Africa affected by cholera as a result of climate change, with more than 4000 deaths.” He highlighted the impact of climate change on health, citing flooding in countries like Libya, earthquakes in Morocco, and other natural disasters.

An analysis by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that 56% of the 2121 public health events recorded in the African region between 2001 and 2021 were climate-related.

Dr. Kaseya stressed Africa CDC’s commitment to adopting a comprehensive one health approach to address climate change-related health challenges. He urged the use of digital advancements, including artificial intelligence, to detect emerging health threats, optimize resource allocation, and enhance the well-being of African communities.

“Inadequate connectivity in Africa is the leading factor behind the under-notification of outbreaks,” noted Dr. Kaseya, highlighting the role of digital technologies in reshaping public health efforts. He emphasized that improved connectivity would bridge geographical gaps, creating a network for knowledge exchange and information.

The WHO warns that if not mitigated, climate change could lead to around 250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress between 2030 and 2050.

Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema, opening the conference, called for African countries to collaborate in vaccine production, citing the challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, where African nations had to seek vaccines globally. He emphasized the importance of unified efforts in public health and other health-related aspects.