It is no news that the earth is warming up, and the climate is changing; crops are failing, sea levels are rising. It is now common knowledge that climate change affects us all and that all hands must be on deck. However, climate change affects us all in different ways. The way and manner in which climate change affects men is quite different from the way it affects women.
This article focuses on the relationship, influence of climate change on the health of women, particularly African women.
In Africa, women are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Some of the reasons which could be attributed to this fact include;
- Limited Education
- Early marriage
- Early child bearing
- Lack of power
- Social and Cultural norms etc.
Warmer temperatures enhance the spread of some pathogens and allow the vectors of some diseases to thrive. Women as primary caregivers are more likely to be exposed to these pathogens and vectors as they go about their daily activities, caring for their families, little ones, the sick and the elderly. This is made even worse by increased or higher humidity.
Climate change comes with increase in sea levels, flooding, severe weather, environmental degradation, extreme heat etcetera. These leads to increase in the spread of various infectious diseases like Schistosomiasis, Helminthiasis, Ascariasis, River blindness, Cutaneous and Visceral lieshmaniasis, Trypanosomiasis, Cholera etc. It also enhances mosquito breeding and survival, leading to a rise in the malaria epidemic (very dangerous to pregnant women).
The impact of these diseases on women and men is likely to be different. For instance, the risk of malaria infection for pregnant women doubles due to their changed physiology, which makes them more “attractive” to mosquitoes. Maternal malaria can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and low birth weight, dramatically threatening national efforts to reduce maternal mortality (WHO, 2011. Gender, Climate Change, and Health).
All these show that climate change adversely affects human health by contributing to increased rates of diseases and malnutrition as a result of droughts and lower crop yields.
Women face greater vulnerability to disease and malnutrition, this is primarily due to gender-specific roles in their families and communities. Also it has been discovered that during natural disasters which have continued to be fueled by climate change, more women and children lose their lives than men.
The effects of climate change have continued to make pregnant women, their foetus and children more susceptible to malnutrition, dehydration and poor health.
The writer, Adegbe Blessing Ojoshogu, is a Climate Change Enthusiast and PACC Policy Research Fellow- Nigeria.