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Global warming puts hospitals at risk of shutting down summit

One in 12 hospitals worldwide is at risk of total or partial shutdown due to extreme weather if nations do not swiftly curb fossil fuel emissions.

In Nairobi, scientists identified the NCCK Huruma clinic as being at high risk, during discussions at the UN climate summit in Dubai.

A total of 16,245 hospitals, twice as many as are currently at high risk, will be in this category by the end of the century without a change in pace, according to a report released on Saturday by the Cross Dependency Initiative (XDI).

The report was published yesterday on Health Day at the COP28 UN climate conference, where countries discussed how to mitigate the health impacts of climate breakdown, which include the spread of disease and the effects of extreme weather events.

"Climate change is increasingly impacting the health of people around the world. What happens when severe weather results in hospital shutdowns as well? Our analysis shows without a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels, the risks to global health will be exacerbated further, as thousands of hospitals become unable to deliver services during crises,” said Dr. Karl Mallon, director of science and technology at XDI.

The 2023 XDI Global Hospital Infrastructure Physical Climate Risk Report delivered some stark findings, showing a significant 71 per cent which stands at 11,512 of these high-risk hospitals situated in low and middle-income countries.

“Achieving a global warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius, coupled with a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels, could halve the risk to hospital infrastructure compared to a high-emission scenario,” the report reads in part.

South East Asia currently hosts the highest percentage of hospitals at high risk, with nearly one in five (18.4 per cent) facing shutdown by the end of the century, under high emissions.

Dr. Mallon said, "The most obvious thing to dramatically reduce this risk to hospitals, and keep communities safe, is to reduce emissions.”

The report identifies hospitals on coastlines and near rivers as the most vulnerable, with coastal inundation projected to become the most significant hazard by 2100.

"The most obvious thing to dramatically reduce this risk to hospitals, and keep communities safe, is to reduce emissions," said Mallon.

The 2023 XDI Global Hospital Infrastructure Physical Climate Risk Report scrutinises the vulnerability of over 200,000 hospitals globally to six climate change hazards.

As the report coincides with the inaugural Health Day at the COP28 UN Climate Conference in the UAE, the XDI urged governments to assess high-risk hospitals in their regions and take immediate action.

"Governments have a duty to populations to ensure the ongoing delivery of critical services. For individual governments not to take action on this information, or for the global community not to support governments in need, is a blatant disregard for the wellbeing of their citizens," said Dr. Mallon.

Martin Muchangi, the director for population health and environment at Amref, emphasised the urgency of addressing hospitals on high alert, noting that the precarious situation demands swift and collective action to ensure the delivery of critical healthcare services in the face of climate-related threats.

"High alert in hospitals due to climate change-induced risks are a clear sign that immediate action is needed," he said.

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