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Pakistan's floods have dealt a severe blow to its public health system

The devastating floods in Pakistan are another manifestation of our climate change. It has killed hundreds of lives and engulfed more than a third of the country. While monsoons and floods are a natural phenomenon, these floods have been twice the 30-year average.

Pakistan’s floods can be clearly linked to human-caused climate change. This change disproportionately affects the poorest, the most vulnerable, and the least responsible for the changes they face. The immediate impact of climate change is now being felt all over the world with more frequent weather – storms, floods, droughts and record high temperatures resulting in loss of lives and livelihoods, reduced food supplies and the spread of disease.

The effects of climate change on health are numerous. In addition to direct deaths from extreme heat or flooding, they disrupt health infrastructure, services, and supply chains, impeding access to medical care and treatment.

In this changing climate, outbreaks of infectious diseases and the re-emergence of diseases that have been nearly eliminated, such as polio, are on the rise. Decades of health gains are at risk. Research indicates that the risk of disease transmission and the emergence of infections from animal sources (including insect-borne diseases) is increasing as ecosystems change, creating more favorable conditions for pathogens and their vectors to thrive. Transmission of malaria, for example, is expected to increase, and to re-emerge at higher altitudes and latitudes as temperatures rise.

Without the people most affected by shaping and driving the agenda, we will not succeed in developing sustainable solutions

In Pakistan, one of the two remaining countries where wild polio remains endemic, devastating floods threaten the polio response – from vaccination campaigns to basic environmental monitoring and monitoring, and exacerbate diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, cholera and Covid-19.

Neglected tropical diseases, a group of 20 parasitic, bacterial, fungal and viral infections that affect more than 1.7 billion people, are expected to spread as they are directly affected by changes in temperature, precipitation and relative humidity. An estimated 500 million additional people could be exposed to mosquito-borne NTDs, such as chikungunya and dengue, as these diseases spread to new geographic locations. The risk of exposure to other diseases such as lymphatic filariasis is still poorly understood. We need more research focused on the relationship between climate change and health to help guide disease elimination and elimination strategies.

The Global Institute for Disease Elimination – or Glide – a global health institute based in the UAE, works to advance thinking and accelerate progress towards disease elimination by raising awareness and participation, promoting elimination strategies, and promoting and scaling innovation through partnership. As we look to Cop28, which will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates in 2023, Glide is conducting additional research through the Falcon Awards for Disease and Climate Change Elimination, to better understand the intersections between climate change and health, particularly in relation to disease elimination and elimination. Objectives. We will learn from others, and put countries and societies at the center. Without the people most affected by shaping and driving the agenda, we will not succeed in developing sustainable solutions.

A health worker gives a polio vaccine to a child in Quetta, Pakistan, in May.  Environmental Protection Agency

More about Pakistan floods

As countries gather at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, we must work together to find innovative solutions to the complex challenges that climate change increasingly poses to our societies. International cooperation is essential to achieving common goals and objectives for people, planet and prosperity. The health of our current and future generations depends on taking action to reverse the drivers of climate change, better understanding the complex interrelationships between climate and health, strengthening global health systems and investing in new diagnoses and medicines.

Better integrated healthcare programs that include neglected tropical diseases, malaria and other diseases, and ensure that facilities are resilient to climate shocks are needed now more than ever. The need to design climate-resilient health systems at the national, regional and global levels has never been more urgent.

The bold commitments made at COP26 in Glasgow last year to reduce global warming, reverse forest loss and end global use of fossil fuels cannot be achieved without strong partnerships, country-specific policies and accountability mechanisms. We must increase the ambition and scope of the global debate on health system financing. We can’t stop, we can’t let the lessons from Covid-19 go to waste. If we stand idly by on health care, we will look back. A changing climate, increasing resistance to drugs and new pathogens should tell us that it is time to stand up and invest on the front lines, health systems around the world.

Published: September 22, 2022, 6:20 am