Renowned medical journal Lancet has said that the risk of dengue in Bangladesh has gone up by 36 per cent due to climate change. Due to extreme heat, persons over 65 years of age face higher health risks. Persons are also facing early death due to air-borne diseases.
Lancet published a scientific report on 13 November regarding health risks and death due to climate change. While the report did not single out Bangladesh, the Lancet authorities dealing with climate change and health risks provided information in response to Bangladesh-specific queries.
After the Paris agreement on climate change, Lancet took up the Lancet Countdown initiative to monitor the global state of the health sector. The results of this monitoring have been presented in the recent report. Scientists and researchers analysed the situation through 41 indicators on five topics -- climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerability; adaptation, planning and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; economics and finance; and public and political engagement. Various UN agencies and 35 top academic institutions of the world were involved in preparing this report.
The report said that a child born today faces temperature 4 degrees Celsius higher than a child born in the pre-industrial era. The impact of climate change had an effect on everyone, from infants to the elderly. The children were the worst hit. Unless the average global temperature can be brought down by 2 degrees Celsius, the child born today will suffer health risks throughout life.
It was noted that since 1960, food production has fallen, posing as a risk to food security. Along the coastal areas, the presence of vibrio cholerae, the germ that causes diarrhoea, has increased by almost 10 per cent.
According to Lancet, 220 million people around the world in 2018 fell ill due to heat waves. Humidity is high in such conditions.
The report said that around 32 million people in Japan were affected by the heat wave, with almost all those over 65 years of age there suffering from the high temperatures. In India this was 45 million. Lancet said that in Bangladesh, 3.4 million suffered from the heat wave in 2018.
While diarrhoea and death due to undernourishment decreased significantly in the 2000-2017 period, dengue increased in certain regions.
The Lancet authorities provided information about the Bangladesh situation, saying that from 2010 to 2014, dengue risk had fallen by 39 per cent. But in recent years the risk of dengue has been increasing. From 2014 to 2017 the risk of dengue increased by 36 per cent.
Globally, the impact of climate change has led to increased deaths at early ages. In the case of Bangladesh, according to the Lancet authorities, in 2016 alone over 63,000 persons died at early ages due to air pollution.
Director of the health directorate (planning and research) and coordinator of the climate change and health promotion unit Iqbal Kabir told Prothom Alo that it can be said that the risk of diseases has increased due to climate change, particularly diseases spread by mosquitoes and other insects. However, he said, there was insufficient research to provide accurate figures.
Health risks of persons 65 years and above have increased by 10 per cent since 1990. This risk has increased by 37 per cent in some countries of the West Pacific region. In African countries the risk is up by 28 to 31 per cent.
Increased heat and humidity has an impact of a persons’ work capacity, pushing down production rates. In 2018 the increased temperatures damaged 45 billion work hours globally, said Lancet.
Lancet gave examples of measures adopted by certain countries to lessen temperatures. Emphasis has been placed on gradually shutting down coal-fired power production and the implementation of other global decisions. They called for increased investment in the health sector.
* This report appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir