COP27 Climate change conference: Urgent action needed for Africa and the world

Gregory E. Erhabor1, Aiah A. Gbakima2, Abraham Haileamlak3, Jean-Marie Kayembe Ntumba4, James Kigera5, Laurie Laybourn-Langton6, Bob Mash7, Joy Muhia8, Fhumulani Mavis Mulaudzi9, David Ofori- Adjei10, Friday Okonofua11, Arash Rashidian12, Maha El-Adawy12, Siaka Sidibé13, Abdelmadjid Snouber14, James Tumwine15, Mohammad Sahar Yassien16, Paul Yonga17, Lilia Zakhama18, Chris Zielinski19

1 Editor-in-Chief, West African Journal of Medicine

2Editor-in-Chief, Sierra Leone Journal of Biomedical Research

3Editor-in-Chief, Ethiopian Journal of Health Sciences

4Chief Editor, Annales Africaines de Medecine

5Editor-in-Chief, Annals of African Surgery

6University of Exeter

7Editor-in-Chief, African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine

8London School of Medicine and Tropical Hygiene

9Editor-in-Chief, Curationis

10Editor-in-Chief, Ghana Medical Journal

11Editor-in-Chief, African Journal of Reproductive Health

12 Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal

13Director of Publication, Mali Médical

14Managing Editor, Journal de la Faculté de Médecine d’Oran

15Editor-in-Chief, African Health Sciences

16Editor-in-Chief, Evidence-Based Nursing Research

17Editor-in-Chief, East African Medical Journal

18Editor-in-Chief, La Tunisie Médicale

19University of Winchester

Correspondences to: Chris Zielinski; email: chris.zielinski@ukhealthalliance.org

Received: 9 Sep 2022; Revised: 9 Sep 2022; Accepted: 15 Sep 2022; Available online: 20 Oct 2022

Key words: Climate, Africa, Conferences, urgent, action 

Ann Afr Surg. 2022; 19(4): 169-172

DOIhttp://dx.doi.org/10.4314/aas.v19i4.1

Conflicts of Interest: None

Funding: None

© 2022 Author. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Wealthy nations must step up support for Africa and vulnerable countries in addressing past, present and future impacts of climate change.
The 2022 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paints a dark picture of the future of life on earth, characterised by ecosystem collapse, species extinction, and climate hazards such as heatwaves and floods (1). These are all linked to physical and mental health problems, with direct and indirect consequences of increased morbidity and mortality. To avoid these catastrophic health effects across all regions of the globe, there is broad agreement—as 231 health journals argued together in 2021—that the rise in global temperature must be limited to less than 1.5oC compared with pre-industrial levels.
While the Paris Agreement of 2015 outlines a global action framework that incorporates providing climate finance to developing countries, this support has yet to materialise (2). COP27 is the fifth Conference of the Parties (COP) to be organised in Africa since its inception in 1995. Ahead of this meeting, we—as health journal editors from across the continent—call for urgent action to ensure it is the COP that finally delivers climate justice for Africa and vulnerable countries. This is essential not just for the health of those countries, but for the health of the whole world.

Africa has suffered disproportionately although it has done little to cause the crisis
The climate crisis has had an impact on the environmental and social determinants of health across Africa, leading to devastating health effects (3). Impacts on health can result directly from environmental shocks and indirectly through socially mediated effects. (4). Climate change-related risks in Africa include flooding, drought, heatwaves, reduced food production, and reduced labour productivity (6).
Droughts in sub-Saharan Africa have tripled between 1970-79 and 2010-2019 (7). In 2018, devastating cyclones impacted three million people in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe (7). In west and central Africa, severe flooding resulted in mortality and forced migration from loss of shelter, cultivated land, and livestock (5). Changes in vector ecology brought about by floods and damage to environmental hygiene has led to increases in diseases across sub-Saharan Africa, with rises in malaria, dengue fever, Lassa fever, Rift Valley fever, Lyme disease, Ebola virus, West Nile virus and other infections (8, 9). Rising sea levels reduce water quality, leading to water-borne diseases, including diarrhoeal diseases, a leading cause of mortality in Africa (8). Extreme weather damages water and food supply, increasing food insecurity and malnutrition, which causes 1.7 million deaths annually in Africa (10). According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, malnutrition has increased by almost 50% since 2012, owing to the central role agriculture pla