The Need to Emphasize Health Care and Climate Change at Durban

At the heart of COP17 in Durban is how countries will respond to and cope with climate change. For the most part the discussions will centre on technological and economical policies and implications. However, the health care impacts of climate change tend be overlooked. The health care impacts of climate change do not receive as much attention because they are difficult to study and they also affect the most marginalized populations in developing countries. This semester, I’ve been able to learn first hand about the humanitarian consequences of climate change working with the Red Cross Red Crescent through the FES 850a International Organizations and Conferences course at Yale.

Through my collaboration with the Red Cross Red Crescent, I’ve appreciated how we are only starting to understand the how climate change will alter our ecological landscape, let alone how these changes will alter disease transmission. Dengue is a relevant case study in how climate change and human health are tightly linked. Worldwide, over 2.5 billion people are at risk of dengue, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Dengue is found in tropical and subtropical climates, in urban and semi-urban areas. It is found in over 100 countries. Climate change fluctuations such as rain, warmer weather, and water shortages will all change the prevalence of this disease and we will see dengue in new locations around the world. Climate change will place a greater burden on humanitarian agencies, such as the Red Cross Red Crescent, responding to dengue epidemics and they will require increased support to reach the most vulnerable populations worldwide.

More attentions needs to be focused on the health of planet and its citizens at Durban. We need to motivate stakeholders at Durban to work together to reduce the humanitarian consequences of climate change through commitments to progressive adaptation and mitigation climate policies.