Climate change is making us sick

Countries around the world are coping with food shortages, displacement and disease due to natural disasters and extreme weather.

Climate change is already affecting people directly, with children the most vulnerable.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), climate-sensitive diseases such as malnutrition and malaria, and diarrhoea and are claiming an increasing number of lives every year.

As well, UNICEF reports that millions of children living in poverty are the most defenceless victims of climate change. UNICEF reports climate change could contribute between 40,000 and 160,000 extra child deaths a year in Asia and the Horn of Africa in its report "Our Climate, Our Children, Our Responsibility."

Recent climate-related heath emergencies include Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 Pakistan floods and cholera epidemics in Bangladesh. The WHO predicts an increase in climate change-related illness and disease, including:

  • increased malnutrition caused by climate-induced food shortages;
  • more deaths and injuries from extreme weather events; 
  • increased diarrhoeal disease linked to either excess or scarcity of water; 
  • more illness and deaths from heatwaves, particularly among the elderly; and 
  • changes in the geography of insect-spread diseases like malaria caused by changing temperatures and rainfall patterns.

Developing nations are at greatest risk from climate change. Climate change and global poverty reinforce each other: climate change makes it harder for poor communities to grow crops, access water, food and shelter, and avoid conflict. Our long-term community development projects are helping communities respond to climate change and the poverty it causes.

LEFT: In Turkana, a desperately dry region of northern Kenya, the river beds are practically dry even in the rainy season; RIGHT: Hurricane Katrina is one of a list of recent climate-related health emergencies.