We, in Bangladesh, have started experiencing a sudden change in climate: winter this year was extremely short-lived. Even in the first week of Bengali month of Chaitra, cold breeze is sweeping the country at night and in the morning. Occasional rains are also witnessed. Such whims of nature have brought into sharp focus likely outbreak of diseases associated with such caprices of nature. Already, hospitals and clinics are crowded with patients with respiratory diseases that are thought to have been bred by sudden climate change in Bangladesh.
Experts have said change in climate patterns hints at a change in long-term weather patterns. When scientists speak about climate change, their concern is about global warming caused by human activities. Global warming refers to an average increase in the Earth's temperature, which in turn causes changes in climate. A warmer Earth may lead to changes in rainfall patterns, a rise in sea level, and a wide range of impacts on plants, wildlife, and humans, they said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and authoritative journal Lancet have already recognised the need for public health priority in view of climate change. Lancet has predicted that climate change will have its greatest impact on those who already are the poorest and it will deepen inequities, and the effects of global warming will shape the future of health among all peoples. "Nevertheless this message has failed to penetrate most public discussions on about the climate change", the journal regretted.
The International Panel for Climate Change says, an increase in average global temperature will lead to changes in precipitation, and atmospheric moisture due to changes in atmospheric circulation, and increases in evaporation, and water vapor. These changes are believed to cause diseases as well.
The International Centre on Diahhoreal Diseases and Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) has forecast that climate change would make people in the country vulnerable to increased prevalence of diseases, such as cholera, dengue, respiratory troubles, and malnutrition due to food scarcity and reduction in food production. Climate change will also lead to poorer nutrition, putting people with perilous immune systems at more risk of dying of HIV.
That is the reason why the icddr,b has felt the need for top-down flow of information and communications. The people, in general, and the communities in rural areas including farmers need to be given information and knowledge about the impacts of climate change and matters concerning the mitigation of the problem, adaptation of knowledge, and how successful practices can be replicated. If these are done, they will develop resilience to combat it and adapt themselves. International cooperation is also essential to face the challenges of climate change.
It is also time for the Bangladesh health authorities to devise ways and means to launch extensive mass awareness programmes from cities to villages on diseases that may affect people in this time of climate change. Simple do's and don'ts, prepared by experienced doctors and climate experts, need to be made known to the people so that they could take preventive measures before they are down in bed with ailments. Various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in can come forward to make people aware of likely adverse effects. The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) and Grameen Bank can use their vast networks across the country in so doing.