‘Adaptation Apartheid’ Seen as Climate Change Affects Health

Health inequalities between residents of industrialized and developing countries are fueled by several factors, including economic and social conditions and the political environment. Recently, climate change has been added as a factor.

A study newly published by one of the world's most prominent medical journals referred to some countries' difficulties reacting to climate change's effects on people's health as "adaptation apartheid."

According to the team of researchers set up by British journal the Lancet and the University College London's Institute for Global Health, the health effects of climate change are likely to be deepened in low- and middle-income countries by a lack of research capacity.

In other words, while impact assessments are constantly carried out for developed countries, most of the developing world - including the entire African continent - keeps suffering from a lack of reliable information about the consequences of climate change on health.

"Although we have good data for the effects of heatwaves in the U.S.A. and Europe, almost no reliable data for heatwave-induced mortality exist in Africa or South Asia," the report reads.

If such gaps are not promptly filled - as the report's authors recommend - the already challenging inequalities in health systems will increase widely.

"Loss of healthy life years as a result of global environmental change (including climate change) is predicted to be 500 times greater in poor African populations than in European populations," the report states. And this happens despite the continent's minimal contribution to the causes of climate change.

As Anthony Costello, head of UCI's Center for International Health and Development and among the report's main authors, told United Nations humanitarian news agency Irin: "We are standing at the tip of a problem - it is just like where we were with HIV 25 years ago."

About the author

  • Tiziana Cauli

    Tiziana has contributed to Devex News since mid-2008, focusing mainly on Africa as well as the European donor landscape, especially those in Brussels, Rome and Barcelona. Tiziana has worked as a journalist for Reuters and the Associated Press in Johannesburg and at Reuters in Milan and Paris. She is fluent in Italian, English, French and Spanish.