Climate change fueling surge in epidemics in Kenya: health authorities

Xinhua News Agency | Dec 2, 2019 at 7:23 PM

NAIROBI, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- Kenyan health authorities said Monday that climatic shocks like droughts and floods have fueled a spike in vector borne diseases amid strain on public healthcare facilities in low income settings.

Sicily Kariuki, cabinet secretary for health, said that communities in rural areas and urban slums have borne the brunt of communicable diseases that have escalated against a backdrop of atmospheric warming.

"The profound impact of climate change on health cannot be underestimated as we witness a rise in vector borne diseases that are more resistant to conventional medicine," said Kariuki.

She made the remarks during the inaugural health, environment and climate change conference in Nairobi, at which more than 300 policymakers and scientists gathered to discuss the link between a warming planet and a rising burden of tropical diseases in the country.

Kariuki said that climate change impacts like floods are to blame for an outbreak of lethal strains of malaria, dengue fever, cholera and typhoid, which have been reported in low-lying parts of the country in this rain season.

Kenya has fast-tracked the implementation of resolutions adopted at the 72nd World Health Assembly in May to raise the visibility of nexus between climate change and a growing burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases.

Yeri Kombe, director general of the Kenya Medical Research Institute, said that investments in research, public awareness and new innovations are key to responding to emerging communicable diseases linked to global warming.

"Climate change is having a direct linkage with the frequency and intensity of tropical diseases in parts of the country that are prone to flooding," said Kombe.

He said that enhanced surveillance at the grassroots level is key to limiting the negative impact of climate change induced disease outbreaks on communities.