Secret to a healthy nation lies below our feet

A thermometer is hot in the sky bright sun, glowing rays, concept of extreme weather. [Getty Images]

Increased cases of extreme weather events are exposing many in Africa to a lot of health risks. According to the World Health Organisation, climate change “is responsible for at least 150,000 deaths annually”.

Many in malaria-prone areas know this too well, especially when it floods or temperatures rise.

A lot more suffer respiratory diseases when exposed to dust and polluted air in industrial areas, especially where extraction is rampant.

Many suffer for consuming polluted ground and other water or for inadequate nutrition due to prolonged droughts. A lot more, such as the elderly and those frail from pre-existing conditions, maybe intolerant to prolonged heatwaves. All this need money.

The climate-induced health problems disproportionately affect the poor, who besides lacking medical cover, also experience slower government response to their cries over water and other stresses.

On the positive side though, organisations are busy promoting climate action, either to manage risks to save their businesses and property or just being human. Some have seen the human face of the climate crisis by going beyond the economy and livelihood issues to focus on emerging weather-related health issues. Their actions have helped minimise the spread of diseases such as malaria.

However, more knowledge needs to be shared at grassroots levels, including the devolved governments, to encourage synergy between different departments and functions to enable seeing of the climate crisis not only as an environment issue, but one that has direct impact on use of resources in infrastructure, health, security, to mention a few.

Capacity building on climate action must also go beyond the capital city and surrounding counties, where civil society organisations have done a lot of work.

The truth is, without looking at the link between climate change and health challenges, we will not see the urgent need to use land more responsibly and minimise pollution, especially of rivers and other water bodies with industrial waste.

Strategic land-use planning is a key remedy for the chaos witnessed, especially in the devolved units. Land use determines how productive the resource gets. If treated well, land rewards humans and nature. This includes planting appropriate trees in best places, use of the least polluting fuels in factories and cars, zero plastic pollution and climate justice.

We live in a world where industrial areas are also residential, and fumes from the manufacturing work cause a lot of health risks.

Now WHO says the period between 2030 and 2050 may experience additional 250,000 deaths annually “from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress alone” with $2 billion to $4 billion spent on managing the ailments per year by 2030.

This kind of money is likely to transform the look of the city, build many roads, or even fund huge irrigation projects to increase food security. Remember a healthy nation is a wealthy nation.