Impact of climate change on health in Kenya and possible way out

  • 10 Mar 2023
  • 2 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Annette Muindi

Climate change is the significant variation of average weather conditions becoming, for example, warmer, wetter, or drier over several decades or longer. Impacts related to climate change are becoming more evident across regions and in many sectors important to society such as human health, agriculture and food security, water supply, transportation, energy, and biodiversity and ecosystems. These impacts are expected to become increasingly disruptive in the coming decades. 

Globally, climate change is already impacting health in a myriad of ways including leading to death and illness from increasingly frequent extreme weather events such as heatwaves, storms and floods, the disruption of food systems, water and vector borne diseases, and mental health issues. Climate change is becoming one of the biggest challenges facing health in Kenya. Climate change is undermining many of the social determinants of good health, such as livelihoods, equality and access to health care and social support structures. These climate-sensitive health risks are disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, including women, children, nomadic communities, poor populations, and those with underlying health conditions. 

Diseases being exacerbated by climate change

Vector-borne diseases such as Chikungunya, Dengue Fever, Malaria, Rift Valley Fever and Yellow Fever, pose significant health impacts and are highly sensitive to changing climatic conditions in Kenya such as temperature, precipitation and humidity. This exerts a strong influence on the life cycles of the vectors such as mosquitoes leading to an increase in those diseases.

Drought and floods are the main climate hazards in Kenya, negatively impacting lives and livelihoods, with human health increasingly being at risk. Extreme climate events cause significant loss of life, and adversely affect the national economy. They are a threat to Kenya’s security. Adverse climate effects, particularly floods and droughts, have catastrophic and increasing impacts across the country.

The UN estimates that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress. According to Oxfam, one person is likely dying of hunger every 48 seconds in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia due to the ongoing drought. 

How to mitigate health effects of climate change

According to the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre, the following are the measures Kenya can take to mitigate the health effects of climate change:

  • Continue to increase knowledge and awareness of the impacts climate change will have on health through effective communication and the translation of findings at the local level for communities, local government and CSOs
  • Scale-up climate-smart programming and preventative health activities that adopt a multi-hazard Early Warning Early Action approach to preparedness.
  • Support the implementation of anticipatory forecast-based actions by scaling existing Forecast-based Financing programmes.
  • Advocate for increased access to climate and health financing to reduce future vulnerabilities.
  • Employ a One Health approach for the routine monitoring of health risks.
  • Integrate mental health and coping with stress into all programmes.
  • Enhance the capacity to undertake integrated health and climate risk. assessments and action (using an all-hazard approach) for highly vulnerable or at risk groups.
  • Increasingly engage in policy dialogues on climate change adaptation.