Climate change continues to be a serious public health risk. According to Global reports, the risk of disease burden and deaths is likely to increase since the changing climate has a powerful impact on human health and wellbeing directly. Due to flooding and storms, apart from causing vector borne infectious diseases and deaths, the storms also cause severe injury. Global reports also point that India is among the most afflicted countries.
Climate change also causes extreme temperatures, which is deadly. Extreme weather events such as severe storms, floods, drought and heat wave have claimed thousands of lives during the last few years and have adversely affected the lives of millions and it continues to be a serious public risk.
At the onset of monsoon season, across many states, heavy rainfall and rapid increase in unclean and contaminated ground water resources, has a severe impact on the health of people.
Since the water quality is infected and contaminated, access to safe water is not available. Since the water and sanitation is contaminated it results in inadequate personal hygiene, a prime cause for various water borne diseases like cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, dysentery and Filariasis, which are life threatening. Every year, more than one lakh people die due to these infectious diseases.
Besides, infected water also causes severe eye infections, and is also spread due to poor hygiene and unsafe environmental sanitation conditions.
Government surveys have found that in about 600 districts, the water quality is contaminated and contains fluoride, iron, salinity and arsenic due to which about 65 million people suffer from fluorosis, a crippling disease caused by fluoride. In West Bengal alone three million people suffer from arseniscosis due to exposure to high amount of arsenic.
Climate change is therefore a new challenge in the ongoing efforts to protect public health and needs more attention.
To prevent disease it is critical that the right measures are taken. Since personal health is closely related to behavioral practices, there is a need to create awareness in the public about the correct usage of water, sanitation and food, which can help, prevent exposure to infectious diseases.
During the climate change season, since water related diseases pose a health risk, water resource management needs to be improved.
Since the public needs to be provided good quality drinking water, supply to ensure families have access to clean water and sanitation and it will ensure that their environment is hygienic. It will also prevent exposure to infectious diseases and ensure their wellbeing and prevent deaths.
More importantly, it is imperative that the health system provides healthcare services are provided across all sections since the public requires healthcare support.
Health care access therefore needs to be prioritized across all states, districts and villages especially during the climate change season.
However, it is also essential that the government take appropriate steps to control water quality since there is a need to prevent contamination of ground water. This in order to prevent the water sources from getting infected with arsenic fluoride, salinity, iron and manganese, uranium, radon, strontium, selenium and chromium.
Given the ongoing situation, these measures need to be implemented immediately to provide adequate support to families in order to prevent disease and deaths.
(Mohuya Chaudhuri is senior journalist and researcher)