Doctors Without Borders: The climate crisis is also a health crisis

As a result of climate change
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Doctors Without Borders warn of health crises

The consequences of climate change are devastating, also for the health of people worldwide. Floods or insect plagues, for example, are causing the number of cases of disease to rise sharply in countries in the Global South. And that’s not all, according to Doctors Without Borders.

The international medical director of Médecins Sans Frontières, Maria Guevara, has called for treating climate change as a “real health crisis”. The majority of people in the developing countries of the Global South are already suffering from the consequences of global warming, she told the German Press Agency in Berlin. If there is no immediate response, the crisis will get worse for everyone.

According to Guevara, global health suffers significantly from climate impacts such as floods or insect plagues. One sees an exponential growth in cases of diseases transmitted or caused by insects, water or food. “Between 2017 and 2021, for example, fewer than 20 major cholera outbreaks were reported per year. This year there are already at least 29,” she said. And then there is the corona pandemic, which has shifted priorities. Many other vaccination programs could only have been carried out slowly or not at all.

Guevara also expects further pandemics. This is due to the fact that mankind is encroaching further and further into the habitats of animals. At the same time, many animal species were looking for new habitats because of global warming. This would make it easier for diseases to spread to humans. “Around 75 percent of the infectious diseases that have occurred in the past 30 years can be traced back to zoonoses. If climate change is not addressed and land degradation continues, we will certainly see more pandemics,” she said.

With a view to the ongoing world climate conference COP27 in Egypt, the organization calls for a speedy agreement on compensation payments from industrialized countries for climate damage in poor countries. A mechanism must finally be found here, said Guevara. “The problem with the conference is that the international community is meeting for the 27th time, but has not made any further progress on some issues, such as real climate action and the issue of tackling the problem of loss and damage.”

For years, many countries in the Global South have been demanding payments from developed countries for the climate damage they have already suffered – called “loss and damage” in UN jargon. At the beginning of the conference in Sharm el Sheikh, UN Secretary General António Guterres also supported the demands.

Since Sunday, a good 200 countries have been discussing how the fight against global warming can be intensified at the UN conference. COP 27 lasts two weeks. Time is of the essence, as the past eight years have been the warmest since weather records began.

According to researchers, global emissions of climate-damaging greenhouse gases must be reduced by around half by 2030. There is no other way to achieve the goal jointly agreed at the UN climate conference in Paris in 2015 of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial times. According to the climate protection plans currently presented by the states, however, they would even increase further.

(time/dpa)

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