Climate change is no longer a distant threat. It is a present reality, with its adverse effects unmasking in real time. One such disheartening manifestation of climate change is being witnessed in Pakistan, where over half a million children are grappling with severe malnutrition, a fallout of extreme flooding. This grim situation foregrounds the human toll of climate change, spotlighting the health and future of vulnerable children.
Climate Change and Health: A Dire Connection
Environmental fragmentation is spurring the spillover of viruses from wildlife to humans. Increasing temperatures are broadening mosquito and tick habitats, introducing vector-borne diseases into immunologically susceptible populations. More frequent flooding is spreading waterborne viral pathogens, while prolonged droughts reduce the ability to prevent and respond to disease outbreaks with adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene resources. Poor air quality and altered transmission seasons due to an unpredictable climate can exacerbate the impacts of respiratory viruses.
Climate change is also triggering the destruction of health systems and large-scale migrations, reshaping healthcare delivery in the face of a changing global burden of viral disease. Children, with their immunological immaturity, physiological differences, and dependency on caregivers, are particularly susceptible to this climate crisis. The circumstance in Pakistan is a testament to this.
Unprecedented Hunger Crisis
Food insecurity has soared to a 10-year high in West and Central Africa, with over 47 million individuals unable to meet their basic food and nutrition needs. In response to this escalating hunger crisis, the EU mobilized additional funding across various regions to support WFP’s food assistance programs, particularly targeting conflict-affected areas, refugees, newly displaced people, food-insecure families with malnourished children under five, and pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Yet, the crisis is far from over. In Pakistan, malnutrition rates are alarmingly high, especially among children and women of reproductive age. The recent floods have amplified this nutrition emergency, highlighting the direct consequences of climate disasters.
Demand for Action: #COP28UAE
The World Health Organization is currently working with the Ministry of National Health Services and Provincial Health Departments, among others, to strengthen the life-saving care for severely malnourished children in the flood-affected districts of Pakistan. However, the need for more comprehensive data on health and nutrition for effective policymaking and programming is evident.
The situation in Pakistan is a stark reminder of the urgent need for immediate attention and action from both national governments and the international community. The hashtag #COP28UAE underlines a call to action in relation to climate change discussions or policies, linking the situation in Pakistan with the broader context of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.