Extreme weather conditions raise prevalence of infectious diseases

According to Carbon Brief, a 2022 disaster evaluation found that extreme weather in Africa contributed to at least 4 000 fatalities and 19-million injuries.

The data revealed that the severe weather events are increasing the risks to workers travelling across the continent.

Dr Chris van Straten, the global health advisor for clinical governance at International SOS, points out that the increasing impacts of climate change, in the form of extreme weather events, are already being felt on the continent.

Infrastructure outages

“Heatwaves, storms, and floods can cause infrastructure outages, damage transport networks, and increase the prevalence of certain infectious and non-infectious diseases.,” according to Van Straten.

The biggest problem, though, is that changes in the global climatic profile also affect the map of diseases.

In 2023, flash floods in South Africa claimed the lives of more than 30 people.

He further said that higher average temperatures and increased rainfall or humidity would extend the spread of some vector-borne diseases into new areas.

“Bacterial food and water-borne gastrointestinal infections, such as vibrio cholera, are also on the increase, while there is emerging evidence linking rising temperatures to kidney diseases,” he added.

Southern Africa most affected

The evidence of this is being seen and felt globally after the recent cholera outbreak, which accounted for over 667 000 cases and more than 4 000 deaths globally in 2023.

The eastern and southern African nations are among the worst affected, accounting for about 75% of the fatalities and a third of the cases as of January 15 2024.

The World Health Organisation said extreme climate events such as floods, cyclones and droughts reduce access to clean water and create an ideal environment for cholera to thrive.

Van Straten said: ”Since Covid-19 struck, the world has found itself facing a multitude of new challenges that are testing the resilience of businesses and their people, particularly as most of these risks have noticeably increased over the past years.”

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