Exploring climate change and health through the lens of adaptation and resilience across Africa

Africa, despite contributing the least to global greenhouse gas emissions, stands as the most vulnerable continent to the adverse impacts of climate change. This vulnerability poses a significant threat to the lives and well-being of millions, particularly in the realm of healthcare. The effects of climate change on health span a spectrum, from direct impacts like heatwaves to indirect consequences such as disruptions in food supplies and the spread of infectious diseases.

The toll on health systems is evident, with climate-related health issues surging and straining already fragile infrastructures. Consider extreme heat, which alone has caused over 1800 climate disasters, claimed 700,000 lives, and led to $43 billion in economic losses across Africa. Shockingly, regions like West Africa, among the hottest globally, receive little attention in terms of research and risk management concerning extreme heat.

Moreover, the escalating demand for cooling due to rising temperatures poses critical challenges, especially in healthcare settings where proper vaccine storage is imperative. Shockingly, 90% of health facilities lack adequate cold chain equipment, jeopardising vaccine efficacy and hindering immunisation efforts, which could prevent 1.5 million child deaths annually.

The repercussions extend further into infectious diseases, with climate change facilitating their spread and intensification. Alarmingly, a recent IPCC report warns of diseases reaching new regions and resurgence in areas once under control if climate action remains inadequate.

Food systems, too, are under siege, with droughts driving food shortages and displacements. This, coupled with a decline in agricultural productivity and water stress, compounds the health crisis, pushing millions toward acute food insecurity and displacement.

In response to these escalating challenges, a policy workshop exploring climate change and health through the lens of adaptation and resilience across Africa becomes imperative. The workshop aims to accelerate efforts to fortify health systems against climate change impacts, focusing on adaptation strategies for food and water systems, heating/cooling, and vector-borne diseases.

The objectives of the workshop include comprehensive review of evidence, identification of innovative solutions, and outlining research priorities and collaboration opportunities. Participants will learn from existing evidence, share positive innovations, and deliberate on challenges and solutions to climate-related health threats.

Day one of the workshop will bring together stakeholders to assess the current state of climate change research in Africa, with a view towards adaptation and resilience in healthcare systems. The aim is to foster collaboration, understanding, and action towards a more resilient healthcare sector in the face of climate change.