COP27 Climate Change Conference – Urgent action needed for Africa and the world

The climate crisis has impacted environmental and social determinants of health across Africa, resulting in devastating health effects.3 Health impacts can result directly from environmental shocks and indirectly from socially mediated effects.4 Climate change risks in Africa include floods, droughts, heat waves, reduced food production and reduced labor productivity.5

Droughts in sub-Saharan Africa tripled between 1970-1979 and 2010-2019.6 In 2018, devastating cyclones affected 2.2 million people in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.6 In West and Central Africa, severe flooding has resulted in mortality and forced migration due to loss of shelter, cropland and livestock.seven Changes in vector ecology caused by flooding and damage to environmental hygiene have led to an increase in disease throughout sub-Saharan Africa, with an increase in malaria, dengue fever, Lassa fever, Rift Valley fever, Lyme disease, Ebola virus, West Nile virus, and other infections.8.9 Sea level rise reduces water quality, leading to waterborne diseases, including diarrheal diseases, one of the leading causes of death in Africa.8 Extreme weather conditions damage water and food supplies, increasing food insecurity and malnutrition, which cause 1.7 million deaths a year in Africa.ten According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, malnutrition has increased by almost 50% since 2012, due to the central role that agriculture plays in African economies.11 Environmental shocks and their ripple effects also cause serious damage to mental health.12 In total, the climate crisis is estimated to have destroyed a fifth of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the countries most vulnerable to climate shocks.13

The damage to Africa should be of paramount concern to all nations. This is partly for moral reasons. It is highly unfair that the most affected nations have contributed the least to the cumulative global emissions, which are driving the climate crisis and its increasingly severe effects. North America and Europe have contributed 62% of carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution, while Africa has contributed only 3%.14