As COP28 takes place in the UAE later this year, the spotlight will inevitably be on the dire ramifications of climate change that the world is grappling with – from blistering temperatures to dwindling water reserves and ever-increasing air pollution. These are not abstract ideas but pressing realities.
Yet, there is a parallel crisis that gets less attention: the alarming repercussions of this environmental change on human health. Not only are we seeing a surge in infectious and chronic diseases, but the widening chasm of health disparities is exacerbating an already strained healthcare infrastructure, still reeling from the aftershocks of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Patients with a heart, lung or metabolic condition, already widespread health concerns in the Middle East and North Africa, are particularly susceptible to the dangers of extreme heat. The invisible killer that is air pollution continues to take more lives.
The chilling statistics from the World Bank reveal that many of the Middle East and North Africa’s cities breathe some of the most polluted air globally, causing a staggering 270,000 deaths annually.
Beyond this human tragedy, there are powerful economic repercussions. Ailing health results in reduced productivity, heightened inequities, and forced migration.
Considering that around 5% of global greenhouse emissions originate from the healthcare sector, and up to 8% in some advanced economies like the US, there is a clear need for a collective effort from within and beyond our industry.