- Song'ok said the world is also experiencing a resurgence of diseases that were believed to have vanished, all of which are due to climate change.
- The emergence of new diseases and exacerbation of ailments like cholera to these unpredictable weather patterns.
Climate change has been identified as one of the causes behind the rising cases of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the country.
According to scientists and health professionals, ailments such as Dengue Fever and Chikungunya are being witnessed in Kenya as a result of climate change.
The floods and the unpredictable weather patterns are a result of climate change.
Dengue fever and chikungunya are caused by mosquitoes, which increase in numbers whenever it rains.
Kenya Medical Research Institute Director General Elijah Song'ok attributed the emergence of new diseases and exacerbation of ailments like cholera to these unpredictable weather patterns.
Song'ok said the world is also experiencing a resurgence of diseases that were believed to have vanished, all of which are due to climate change.
"We are witnessing the adverse effects of climate change on the well-being of our population. This is why we need to partner to look at how to address the impact of climate change on our health systems,” he said.
He spoke during the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) second Health and Climate Change Conference in Diani, Kwale County.
Kemri chairman Abdullahi Ali articulated that climate change is an enduring challenge demanding action, adding that there should be a collective effort to tackle the issue.
“This year’s conference is not about normal politics, it is about life and death. We contribute very little to the causes of climate change, but in return, we suffer the most. Particularly the unpredictability of rainfall patterns that have disrupted traditional farming practices,” he said.
Ali called for a concerted effort, entailing scientific research and effective political leadership to formulate and implement informed strategies.
Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) Director of the East Africa Regional Office Sam Kariuki emphasized the influence of climate change on vector-borne diseases transmitted by insects like mosquitoes.
Kariuki also pointed out the evolution of diseases such as Cholera due to changes in climate patterns.
“In the past, cholera was being witnessed during flooding, but this is no longer the case. In a place like Nairobi and other regions, the Cholera outbreak is reported even without the rains,” said Kariuki.
He drew attention to research conducted at KEMRI that demonstrated the prolonged presence of microorganisms in the environment, contributing to the spread of diseases within the population.
Moreover, Kariuki stressed the rise of antimicrobial resistance, rendering conventional medicines ineffective against certain diseases.
"Drug resistance is a pandemic that is invisible but spreads without knowing and kills, people go in hospitals and get treated with cholera but they do not heal because the disease no longer reacts with the prescribed drugs," he said.
Kariuki advocated for stringent regulations to curtail the misuse of antibiotics and address the shifting landscape of disease treatment.
He underscored the necessity for comprehensive public education campaigns about disease transmission and the importance of avoiding mosquito breeding grounds.
He urged collaborative efforts to enhance community drainage systems, particularly in informal settlements, to counter cholera outbreaks.
According to him, the NCDi caused by climate change will not only affect the health sector but also the road to reaching the SDG goals.
Kariuki said that most SDG goals depend on the health of human beings but now most governments will have a challenge achieving the goals because of the emerging new diseases.
"The moment we have climate change, it affects nutrition, environment, how we can grow our crops, our health and cause pollution. The greenhouse becomes high and it affects how we are infected with new diseases like dengue fever and chikungunya which were not there before,"
"So we fight them yet they were not part of SDG goals, they are new, This will now force the governments to start thinking on how they can start fighting the new enemies yet we are not done with the past ones," he said.