According to the WHO, one in four of the world’s deaths are from preventable environmental causes. Climate change is expected to contribute to an additional 250,000 deaths each year, many of which are preventable with timely and appropriate care: diarrhea, malaria, malnutrition, and heat stress. Studies have shown that warming temperatures increase the chances of preterm birth and that vector-borne disease outbreaks, such as Ebola, Marburg, tuberculosis, yellow fever, and Zika, are becoming more common and spreading faster within and across country borders.
In sub-Saharan Africa where Seed works, we are seeing the impacts of climate change on human health in real time. Malawi, for example, is currently recovering from its longest and deadliest outbreak of cholera, made worse by deadly storms caused by climate change.
Seed partners with governments to respond to the health effects of climate change by strengthening climate-smart health systems and investing in the professional health workforce required to meet the growing burden of disease. Well-resourced, well-trained, and well-protected health workers are the foundation of resilient, climate-responsive health systems. Health workers must be able to address both the coming flood of disease from climate change as well as the current epidemics of HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, maternal mortality, and noncommunicable diseases.
We partner with ministries of health, universities, and health facilities to train, mentor, and support doctors, nurses, and midwives who can nimbly and effectively respond to the changing and increasing burdens of disease caused by climate change. We also work with our partners to identify evaluation, policy, and advocacy opportunities to increase awareness of and investment in the nexus of climate change and health.
For the majority of frontline health workers, the emergence of climate-sensitive diseases is not some distant future to prepare for: it’s something their patients are impacted by today.
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