June 16, 2024

Africa Climate Week Meeting Urges for Health, Climate Change Integration

Technical Advisor for Health-Environment Partnerships (From Left to Right) Edith Ngunjiri,, Blue Ventures (BV), Kenya, Anicet Durand Oboue, National Coordinator PACJA Côte d’Ivoire, Charles Kabiswa, Executive Director, Regenerate Africa – Uganda, Sheilla Cindy Anyango, Chief Engagement Officer at Youth Senate Kenya and Ellyanne Wanjiku, Young Climate Advocate – Kenya. (Photo by The COAST Correspondent)

By The Coast Correspondent

Email, thecoastnespaper@gmail.com

Stakeholders have expressed disappointment over the Africa Climate Summit failure to address the climate change crisis’ impact on the health sector in the continent.

The Heads of State Nairobi Declaration document fell short of the stakeholders’ concerns on the ever-changing situational analyses between climate change and health sector.

The Summit held in Nairobi, Kenya from September 4 to 8 brought together more than 12,000 delegates from across the continent and the international community.

Charles Kabiswa, Regenerate Africa chief executive office, speaking at a side event organised by the USAID expressed shock and disbelief to see health being mentioned as a preamble in the final Nairobi Declaration communique.

The side USAID-funded event was organised for stakeholders of Building Capacity for Integrated Family planning (FP), Reproductive Health (RH) and Population, Environment and Development (PED).

“Health has been excluded from the climate discourses and action despite the intersectionality in terms of the impacts on the vulnerable people,” he said.

Kabiswa noted that the Nairobi Declaration recognised the impacts of climate change on health only in the preamble but it failed the African people on providing pathways to climate action.  

“There is no mention in the responses. This is a perpetuation of how things have been within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change processes. Despite having struggled in several Conference of Parties (COPs) in our bid to see health integrated into climate change discussions and we are not ready to tire,” he declared.

The declaration, according to Kabiswa, is a document supposed to have been developed by African leaders who represent the poor and the vulnerable of their communities.

“Which of these presidents do not know that women in their countries are more affected by floods, drought, early marriages and pregnancies, diseases, nutritional effects elements of gender-based violence and effects of mental health?” he asked.

From their research and continuous assessment, the stakeholders say there is an indication of disproportionate effect of climate change affecting more women, girls and children than any other sector.

According to Kabiswa the impact on the vulnerable people, the gender sensitivity and health effects influenced their programming to make sure they included a gender sensitivity component.

Ellyanne Wanjiku, 13, and a Young Climate Advocate – Kenya, said children are interested in the nexus between climate change and health because they are first casualty in disease outbreaks such as malaria and cholera.

“They have low immunity.

Unlike my mother, I don’t have the luxury of going to swim in clean rivers nor drink that pure clean river water. Why deny me what you enjoyed in your generation? We can do better,” she told off the declaration.

Agreeing to this, Khumbize Kandondo Chiponda, the Malawi health minister said in an earlier submissions that the health sector is always the first point of call when floods leave behind cholera afflicting the population or when drought hits them with malnutrition. 

“What we are calling for is the integrated programmes and services so that vulnerable communities could be served better in the context of climate change,” the minister said.

In her views, Chiponda says what climate-vulnerable communities need are robust primary care services for promotion services and knowledge sharing.

This can be still be achieved when governments adopt integrated programmes and services so that vulnerable communities can receive comprehensive services, particularly in climate related disasters.

Kabiswa, on the other hand, noted that when people think about climate change, they only talk about climate adaptation and programmes, including the government’s tree planting leading to exclusion of the healthy responses within the conversation on climate. 

“Experiences from Cyclone Freddy and Idai in southern Africa as well as drought in the east and horn of Africa exposed the vulnerability in our health systems and infrastructure in Africa. Continued silced planning and financing will continue to disadvantage Africa and by extension Africans,” added Mutunga.

According to Bience Gawanas, vice-chair of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, some earlier sessions said the world should not accommodate health in the climate change as a matter of charity.

“It is a right that health must find its space in the climate change discourse,” she said asking where is the health social justice in climate change discourse.

Dr Durand Oboue, the Panafrican Justice Climate Alliance (PACJA) national coordinator of Cote d’Ivoire said there was need to increase policy engagements to ensure that planners do not go about their business in silos. 

“As a grass root network organisation, we will continue to engage with national, regional and international communities till we see issues of health and climate change are integrated. We have this good news that for the first time health will have a special side event at COP28. This is just the beginning,” he said. 

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