How climate change shapes healthcare issues

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The journalist will follow Bangladesh scientists to villages to explore the health effects of climate change, examining soil and freshwater quality, waterborne diseases, and access to healthcare.

  • €10,140 Budget in Euros
  • 2019 Final release date
  • 5 Round winner
  • 1 Location

How climate change shapes healthcare issues

Most of Bangladesh lies only a few feet above seawater level. This makes Bangladesh one of countries most affected by climate change, where it already takes place.

Every year about 40 million people suffer from rising sea levels and floodings. We follow the water upstream from the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta in the south to the northeastern region of Sylhet, where we will experience the direct and indirect consequences of climate change on health issues. In Bangladesh scientists like Quamrun Nahar and his collegues at the ICDDR,b (International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh) are finding more and more clues, that climate change is fundamentally shaping the current living conditions and healt status of the whole country. This research gives an outlook of what is to come in many more countries in near future.

Beginning in small villages at the coast and the delta, the sea level has risen for years. In the region of Satkhira people rely on the fertility the soil that is constantly degrading due to salinity. Saltwater also contaminates freshwater sources so that nowadays in many places salt intake by freshwater exceeds WHO recommendations threefold. ICDDR,b’s data is strongly convincing as it covers 50,000 households over four generations. They linked increasing salinity with higher prevalence of miscarriages and hypertension. The villagers will tell us how and to what extend they cope with the salinity e.g. by changing to fishery, but will also tell stories of those, who left their homes. Currently six million Bangladeshi migrate – often ending up in the slums of Dhaka.

Even upstream, following the migrants, people suffer severe floodings. Due to climate change the frequency and intensity increase. Afterwards cholera epidemics take place, because the flood disperses organic residues from latrines. At the ICDDR,b we will spent a day portraying the threat this poses on the healtcare system as the centre yearly treats the outrageous amount of more than 220 000 patients.

Also the most severe dengue outbreak since beginning of recordings is taking placing this very moment and is partly attributed to expanding rainy seasons. ICDDR's researchers have linked changing patterns and levels of temperature and rainfall with increased mortality.

Following the rivers further upstream to Sylhet, one also experiences the effects of climate change. Chronicundernutrition of children is particularly common. Unseasonably early rainfalls in 2017 destroyed the rice harvest and threatened food security while both villages and healthcare facilites only became reachable via boat. Sabine Gabrysch, an
awarded scientist and first german professor of Climate Change and Global Health, has been conducting a randomized-controlled trial here. The BMBF-funded study called 'FAARM' will end this year. The research will result in first-ever evidence whether 'homestead food production' can reduce malnutrition of children. We follow Gabrysch's work in the villages and learn how gardening has influenced health, economic and social status of women and children.

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