Health related vulnerabilities and enabling institutions to facilitate responses to climate change in East Africa

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Andrew K Githeko


It is now accepted that climate change  is  having and will continue to have a direct or an indirect impact on human health and in most cases, it will be negative. In this review the links between climate and climate sensitive diseases is established. The review goes further to examine what it will take for health research institutions to address adaptation to climate change, while reducing institutional vulnerability and improving their response to climate change.  Evidence has emerged that range expansion of climate sensitive diseases such as malaria, meningitis, Rift Valley Fever, chikungunya and cryptosporidium is occurring and this will increase pressure on the health systems across Africa. Climate related risks in health will require a proactive approach in order to prevent rather than manage health disasters. Diseases epidemic predictive models will enable early detection of the risks and intervention. The health system is dependent on several national and foreign partners forming a critical network. If these networks malfunction then the health systems will be highly susceptible to failure. Governance and leadership of the institutions will determine the rate of adaption to climate change. There is need to strengthen research institutions in Africa because they can run long term programs addressing climate change. Furthermore these institutions must expand their research agenda to include a multidisciplinary approach to solving problems.  A closer collaboration between departments of meteorology, remote sensing and mapping  and medical research institutions is now more urgent than ever. Development partners and national governments must invest in infrastructure that will enable adaptation with the aim of increasing the institutional capacity to cope and minimize the potential impacts of climate driven diseases.

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