South Sudan recommits to enhancing efforts to improve climate change-induced health threats including flooding
30 April 2022
Climate change is manifesting in increasing temperature, rising sea levels, changing rainfall patterns, and more frequent and severe extreme weather conditions
World Health Day is observed annually on 7 April, to commemorate the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO).
This year’s event is marked under the theme “Our Planet, Our Health,” and is aimed to raise awareness of the inextricable link between the planet and our health, as the burden of non-communicable and infectious diseases rises alongside the growing incidence of climate-related challenges.
Climate change is manifesting in increasing temperature, rising sea levels, changing rainfall patterns, and more frequent and severe extreme weather conditions such as flooding. The WHO estimates that more than 13 million annual deaths globally are due to avoidable environmental causes, including the climate crisis.
“The recent flooding witnessed in many parts of the country and extreme weather are examples of the effect of climate change. These have facilitated mosquitos to spread malaria further and fast than ever before. Malaria thus, remains the leading cause of illness and death and morbidity in South Sudan”, said Dr Victoria Anib Majur, the Undersecretary at the Ministry of Health South Sudan in a press release issued on the World Health day event on7 April 2022.
These new realities have inflicted profound health threats including diseases outbreaks that have caused needless illness and death.
Since July 2020, South Sudan has been experiencing heavy rainfall and rising water levels along the White Nile, which resulted in massive flooding in many parts of the country affecting nearly one million people and subsequently resulting in widespread disruption to normal patterns of life in the affected locations.
In 2022, The Ministry of Health with support from WHO and partners conducted two rounds of oral cholera vaccination in Rubkona and Bentiu Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Unity State protecting almost 200 000 people.
“WHO will continue to do its utmost best in supporting the Ministry of Health to address these challenges,” said Dr Fabian Ndenzako, WHO Representative a.i. for South Sudan. Strengthening multi-stakeholder engagement and collaboration to ensure alignment of efforts to fight climate change should be placed high on the agenda”.
With direct consequences for the key determinants of health, climate change is negatively impacting air and water quality, food security, and human habitat and shelter. Consequently, the burden of heart and lung disease, stroke, and cancer, among others, is growing in Africa and the world at large.
Like many countries in the African Region, South Sudan also faces water and sanitation scarcity whether in health facilities or communities. Water-borne diseases such as hepatitis E virus and diarrheal diseases are on the rise, especially in most affected areas of Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei states.
The Ministry of Health calls upon all stakeholders to act on the social and economic determinants of climate change and health, by working across sectors to improve living and working conditions, and access to education, particularly for the most marginalized groups, ensuring the continued delivery of essential healthcare services.
The Ministry of Health also calls for joint action by legislators and policymakers to combat tobacco and its effects on the environment and human health.