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COVID-19 and Climate Change: Gaps to Fill by the Global Community – By Aliyu Abubakar Shehu

Aliyu Abubakar Shehu (aliyuabubakarshehu@yahoo.com)

Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has generated panic and fear globally. The virus is not only appearing as a health problem, but also a socio-economic problem that disrupts the normal activities of the whole world. COVID- 19 pandemic has claimed lives of many people globally and pressed unexpected pause in many activities in the developed, developing and underdeveloped countries.

These activities include; businesses, conferences, summits, religious gatherings, weddings, as well as other social comforting events. The outbreak of coronavirus has, similarly, caused indefinite   postponement and suspension of many trips in virtually all continents, countries, cities and towns worldwide.

The pandemic has posed huge global economic crisis and thus, generated a lot of individual, institutional and governmental pinches on the planet earth. However, future epidemiological burden and socio-economic   impacts of COVID -19 pandemic depends on how soon this viral disease can be tackled medically as a global health problem that posed serious    economic crisis. Although, this is relative to individual country’s economic strengths, health systems, coping mechanisms, technological advancement as well as political forte.

Coronavirus as one of the serious global pandemics, is not only affecting world economy and livelihood, but also portraying to us the following realities:

One, Science is real, in the sense that, the virus is spreading so rapidly that it can cause thousands of deaths in a day. However, the virus can spread through various means of contact between human to human or human to other objects. The virus can also cause repeated coughs, and difficulty of breathing among the humans.

Two, Countries preparedness in response to public health emergency: The emergence of COVID-19 has shown clearly how different countries respond to the disease outbreak. This implies that, it is binding upon all countries to be alert to similar issues in the future.

Three, Public sensitisation; That is, campaign should be sustained via various governmental and non-governmental organisations across different countries on the dangers of this virus and its likes.

Four, the urgent need to re-strengthen the health system in relation to countries’ socioeconomic status.

These issues raised  by the outbreak ,  translates  that all components of public health are dynamics considering how the system is changing over time with outbreak of global public health emergencies, such as Ebola, Zika virus, Lassa fever and COVID-19 , that fascinatedly shook the world and woke scientists and global actors up  towards addressing the  looming public  health issues. Although COVID- 19 pandemic met several problems that are continuously claiming lives and dragging many communities, families and individuals to poverty, especially in Africa and Asia.

For  instance in Sub-Saharan Africa, the  wide inequalities all made the nations to fail in achieving their goals on reducing the rate of maternal mortality during the predating Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), although it is clear  that a lot of miles have  been covered  by lifting  about a  billion of people out of poverty ,  increased enrolment of children in schools from  58 to 76% in sub-Saharan Africa under MDG 2.

These momentous achievements could be linked with technological advancement especially in China and India that use MDGs agenda to achieve rapid economic growth and building sustainable society. Even though, all the nations have covered a lot of miles towards achieving according to their commitment.

The overall MDGs agenda was hindered by limited commitments, resources scarcity, inadequate focus and accountability on the agenda as well inadequate awareness and attention in sustainable development. These limitations were barriers to MDGs considering the gaps left behind such as persisting inequalities, conflicts and humanitarian problems, climate change and its serious impacts, extreme poverty and hunger.

Interestingly and subsequently, United Nations members convened and adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the aim of protecting environment and promoting prosperity by the year 2030 and thus, translating relationships and connections between sectors particularly, health, environment, economy, as well as other correlational factors like science and technology.

Given the premises on the nitty- gritty outlook of the global public health. It can now be realised that, unexpected emergence of COVID- 19 appears as a wake up for scientists, politicians, researchers and overall global communities towards accepting the reality considering how the stories of coronavirus placed the world into the huge tasks in the present decade of globalisation.

As a young person, I would say that it is now the right time to act in order to turn these challenges into opportunities. However, all the problems are dependent on and connected to one another and thus, multisectoral approaches need to be employed while addressing these issues. Hence, there is dire need for synergies towards, ensuring social justice, climate change adaptation and mitigation, clean and sustainable economic growths and development being them central of achieving 17 SDGs, strengthening health systems and ensuring sustainable livelihood. At this, junctures the following realistic issues must be acted upon.

Climate Trajectory and Public Health Emergencies   

Climate change is the most contemporary phenomena in scientific and non-scientific communities of the present century. Although, Climate change has been recognised to be a serious phenomenon as long-term change in the average weather patterns area, country, zone, region or overall global pattern due to human and natural activities. Affirmatively, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1989, under the.

United Nations with the aim of giving scientific view of climate change and its political and economic impacts. Even though climate change occurs all over Earth’s history and thus, deciphering to us increase in human activities due to relative increase of human population and globalisation from industrial development. In the recent time, increase in population growth and technological development from industrial revolution are scientifically recognised to be major drivers of climate change and its impacts   due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that are generated from human activities particularly urbanisation, industrialisation as well as  technology overtime.

Similarly, climate change is not only manifesting as scientific phenomena but as threats to food security, human health, economic growth and overall societal wellbeing, considering how it depletes, degrades and wipes natural resources upon which we rely on.

For instance, climate change can negatively affect human health by causing disruptions to physical, biological, and overall ecological systems. The health impacts of physical, biological, and overall ecological disruptions consist of increase in  infectious diseases, cardiovascular disease , malnutrition,  water-borne diseases  increased respiratory and, other diseases such as cancers and mental health illnesses due to   extreme weather events, changes in the prevalence of food insecurity attributable from climate change impacts. In related context, climate change depletes natural resources such as rivers, lake, forests, land etc upon which countries and people rely for economic growth and livelihood.

And thus, economic and social problems such as war and conflicts aggravated from social pinches and tensions. Similarly, our nations are at high vulnerabilities of many public health problems, severe economic crisis and other livelihood issues relating to climate change impacts due to the low adapting and coping strategy in the continents, if the problem is not addressed. And, therefore stringent effort is needed.

Outlook of the Health System

Wellbeing is determined by one or two condition upon in which people are born, grown, live, work and governmental policies settings and thus, social services are dependent upon social justices, provision of basic needs of life as well as other fundamental human rights. Unfair distribution of these services and needs are typically responsible for huge inequalities among continents, countries, communities and individuals. In the public health concept, they are   called social determinants of health.

Outbreak of COVID-19 did not only come as public health problem, but also a litmus paper for testing strengths and weakness of many considering how the world is trembled in both developed and developing nations. For instance, coronavirus outbreak met many disheartening situations to many communities, families and individuals as very significant number of people are not only lacking average healthcare services but all overall livelihood since there are still people  that do not have access to health facilities and  there are still people that have never seen health workers in their lives. This  indicates high level of inequalities and, thus presenting  to us that, there are still huge miles to cover in achieving robust SDGs by year 2030 and fill in  the gaps left by predating Millennium Development Goals.

COVID -19 pandemic has halted many institutional activities and forced the world to go global lockdown and run lectures and office activities online, when many communities in the rural setting do not even have access to mobile networks. Even though, Human Development Index (HDI) of Nigeria is still low as ranked 158th position out of 189 countries and territories in the world, which can be linked with inequalities, multidimensional poverty and climate change stated.

Similarly,COVID-19  has raised alarm to strengthening  efforts and policies towards diversifying economics from  abundant natural resources other than oil only, although other sectors like agriculture face huge hinderances from many ecological and non-ecological challenges such as erosion, droughts, pollution land use changes, insecurity, banditry, farmers herders crisis. These problems translate to fall in agricultural outputs, scarcity of agricultural lands and turning many families to IDPs Nigerian population is increasing day by day with high demand due to rapid population growth.

To this end, it can now be concluded that, Coronavirus is not only a global health pandemic, but also a wakeup call towards ending inequalities, inclusive policy, climate change adaptation, strengthening health system and preparedness for tackling emergencies. However, these are   not only responsibilities of governments and multinational governments but also all of us dwellers, stakeholders, custodians of the system by acting towards facing COVID-19 and climate change collaboratively.

Aliyu Abubakar Shehu writes from Sokoto State, Nigeria and is a global Environmentalist and Epidemiologist.

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