MANASH PRATIM DUTTA
GUWAHATI, May 10 - In order to withstand the health hazards accruing from climate change, the State health department is drafting a state policy as per the guidelines formulated by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Sources in the health department informed The Assam Tribune that the step is being taken as changing climatic conditions in the State have brought about drastic changes in the epidemiological behaviour of various vector-borne diseases.
According to sources, the policy will consist of short, medium and long-term action plans on various health issues caused due to climate change.
The idea behind the policy is to create awareness about the impacts of climate change on human health among general population, especially the vulnerable community and healthcare providers.
The policy will lay emphasis on strengthening the capacity of the health system to respond to climate-sensitive illnesses.
“Based on the policy, the department will carry out situational analyses to strengthen preparedness and response at both state and ground level to cope with adverse impacts of climate change-related disasters in coming days,” sources divulged.
One of the main objectives of the policy is to promote partnerships with stakeholders in the private or informal sector along with government departments to strengthen the monitoring, surveillance and research capacity vis-a-vis the impact of climate change.
According to officials in the health department, the State stands vulnerable to vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis, kala-azar, and filaria and water-borne diseases such as typhoid, hepatitis and dysentery in the wake of climate change.
Moreover, malnutrition and consequent disorders like retarded child growth and development have emerged as other challenges that the State will require to address due to climate change.
The State health department has already issued a notice to all officials concerned to set up a system in their respective areas to implement the policy.
The department will select five hospitals in each district where the number of patients affected by diseases caused by climate change is very high. The department will collect data from those hospitals on a regular basis and build up a database, based on which higher authority of the department will make decision on working plan from time to time. The department will also set up a State-level task force in connection with the matter, sources revealed.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in its ‘National Action Plan for Climate Change and Human Health’ said, “Diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, dengue and cholera are all sensitive to climate change due to effect on the viability and the geographical distribution of the mosquitoes and micro-organisms, which prefer a wetter, warmer world. Deaths from heart diseases and respiratory illness during heat waves and malnutrition from crop failures add to the toll.”
The World Health Organisation also estimates loss of 1, 50,000 lives every year due to changes in climate warming and precipitation. It warns that the risk of death and disease from climate change will double in the next 20 years.