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Climate Change Is Making it Harder to Tackle Epidemics: Report


Why Global Citizens Should Care
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 aims to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria by 2030. While there has been significant progress towards this goal, climate change poses a major threat, as rising temperatures and other characteristics of climate change create a breeding ground for diseases. Join Global Citizen and take action now.

There is one key factor hampering progress on global health efforts that is set to only get worse: climate change.

Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said Tuesday that climate change is making it more difficult to eradicate deadly epidemics. 

Rising temperatures help mosquitoes spread malaria at a higher altitude in Africa. These temperatures also warm ocean surface waters, which increase the intensity and frequency of storms, Reuters reported.

Intense cyclones, which result in increased infections — as seen when Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique in March, followed by Cyclone Kenneth, only weeks later — present other significant obstacles, too.

Following these cyclones, there were nearly 50,000 confirmed cases of malaria in Mozambique, and more than 1,400 cases of cholera

The Global Fund is a partnership of governments, civil society, technical agencies, and the private sector, committed to ending AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by 2030.

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Of the three epidemics, Sands said that malaria is most impacted by climate change. 

“There are indirect effects [of climate change] on TB and HIV because if people are displaced by environmental or climate change reasons they are likely to be more vulnerable to these diseases,” Sands told reporters.

Climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year from 2030 to 2050, due to malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress, according to the World Health Organization. 

A number of recent studies demonstrate the risk of climate change on global health, including a study by the medical journal Lancet, which showed that millions of people are vulnerable to heat-related disease and death.

“It affects everyone around the world — every single person, every single population. No country is immune,” Nick Watts, executive director of the Lancet Countdown and a co-author of the report, told Scientific American. “We've been seeing these impacts for some time now.”

And in a recent article for TIME, Adrienne Hollis, lead climate-justice analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, cited a study that shows climate change “is poised to increase extreme heat significantly in frequency and severity, leading to more public-health risks across the US,” adding that low-income communities and those with high populations of people of color are particularly at risk.

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Earlier this month, world leaders and philanthropists committed to donating more than $14 billion over the next three years to the Global Fund, representing the largest amount ever raised for a multilateral health organization. 

The funds are expected to “help save 16 million lives and end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by 2030,” the Global Fund stated

However, additional funds are needed. The Global Fund seeks to spur domestic investment of $46 billion towards ending the three diseases and strengthening health systems.

Sands says countries should increase their health spending in order to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as they relate to ending HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.