Topic: 2023-Climate Change and Public Health
Delegate Name: Josi Hetherington
Committee: World Health Organization
School: Royal Oak High School
Delegate: Josi Hetherington
Topic B CLIMATE CHANGE AND PUBLIC HEALTH
Climate change has posed a serious threat to our world’s well-being, and if left unchecked will continue to create unprecedented issues. As climate change begins to increase in severity, severe weather has been seen more frequently. Firstly, an overall trend of temperature has been seen, “with the average global temperature [hitting] an all-time high”, as of the summer of 2023 (1). These record temperatures have led to an increase in droughts due to the lack of necessary moisture in the environment. In other instances, the warming atmosphere has increased evaporation, allowing for an excessive amount of rainfall. Both occurrences have been seen in countries such as the US, where excessive rainfall led to flash flooding in the east, and dry periods creating extreme droughts in the west. While these irregular weather patterns negatively affect the environment, they also greatly affect public health.
First and foremost, the increasing temperature has created new breeding grounds for mosquitos. Mosquitos are typically found in temperatures ranging from 64-93° (2). Due to adverse weather conditions, mosquito habitats are on the rise, which poses a major threat to affected communities. Mosquitos are known to transmit deadly diseases such as Malaria, Dengue, and Zika. All mentioned diseases are on the rise, and it is estimated that up to 400 million infections occur yearly from dengue alone (3). Additionally, the increased rainfall allows for the optimal breeding of mosquitoes, which will further outbreaks. Ethiopia feels strongly that the prevention of these occurrences will greatly strengthen its citizens’ health. Just last year, Ethiopia faced an outbreak of Malaria in the city of Dire Dawa, with over 2,000 cases (4). And yet, there was no formal investigation of what caused the outbreak. This issue needs to be addressed with great authority to see any change in health care.
Secondly, once again attributed to the unpredictable weather, the agricultural industry has faced major deterrents. Constant droughts have plagued many regions including Ethiopia. These droughts kill off livestock and make once dependable food unattainable for many. Food insecurity has been amplified by the continuous shortage, and the price increase has made food only available to high-income households (5). Ethiopia has struggled with poverty, and currently, 68.7% of the population faces poverty (6). Additionally, regions with excessive rainfall risk erosion of soil. This will reduce the health benefits of crops and has been contributing to malnutrition. To halt the deterioration of crop production and prevent further mosquito-related outbreaks, Ethiopia urges countries to come together in the fight for public health.
In response to the continuous outbreaks of Malaria, the United Nations (UN) has partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to create the Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP). This collaboration is part of a comprehensive approach to reduce Malaria incidents, improve healthcare infrastructure, and ultimately work towards the global goal of eliminating Malaria. The action plan uses preventative measures such as the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs), indoor residual spraying (IRS), and preventive treatment for pregnant women to reduce Malaria transmission. It has helped create tremendous progress in increasing access to diagnosis and treatments throughout all environments. The program has done this by investing in the development of rapid diagnostic tests (RTDs) and has effectively supervised the distribution of antimalarial drugs. Additionally, GMAP has worked towards empowering communities through education and awareness campaigns to better promote early treatment-seeking. All of these efforts have been funded by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private sectors, and government aid to effectively fight Malaria (7). Moving forward, we must recognize that new areas may be subject to Malaria as well as other mosquito-transmitted diseases, and it will be of the utmost importance to expand GMAP’s influence.
Not only has the UN taken drastic actions in the fight against Malaria, but they’ve also recognized the extent to which climate change is damaging food security. With the growing reliance on crops like wheat, it is estimated that wheat production alone must increase by 60% by 2050 to account for the growing population (8). This only proves more difficult because of the unpredictable and harsh weather conditions. The UN urges to put in place early detection programs to prepare for tumultuous weather and to increase the resiliency of crops. Firstly, the UN has looked at incorporating Agroforestry into areas with surpluses of rainfall. Agroforestry plants trees among crop fields, which can help with erosion of soil. This ensures crops will keep the much-needed health benefits (9). In addition to the nutritional benefits, Agroforestry can help to combat climate change by creating “carbon sinks” on the farms. Another solution in place that has greatly helped to mitigate the effects of severe weather is insurance policies. The R4 Rural Resilience Initiative supported by the World Food Programme has supported nearly 400,000 households in financial aid after severe weather conditions (10). The program allows farmers to enroll for free, as long as they participate in risk-reduction activities. This program and the risk reduction activities work hand in hand to provide much-needed support in times of peril, and if it was further invested, the program could be offered to all countries that need it.
Not only is this a pressing health issue for Ethiopia, but it is an economic one as well. Being so heavily reliant on agriculture, Ethiopia finds it of the utmost importance to take strides in developing counteractions to severe weather conditions. To instate measures against possible outcomes, Ethiopia has partnered with the R4 program. This has created a safety net for many Ethiopian farmers, and the partnership has proved itself to be invaluable. Firstly, the program is significantly more cost-effective than prior relief initiatives. Additionally, it has helped to give Ethiopian farmers 4 useful tools for combating the adverse effects of climate change. Benefits like weather insurance for farmers, newly found access to credit, and advisors to aid in savings have all helped in the financial aspect (11). Even more so, the initiative has helped with watershed restorations as well as other environmental restoration progresses. These investments in the agricultural industry have brought stability to many Ethiopian farmers, which can be used in the event of a food crisis. The risk-reduction tasks in Ethiopia include working on seed multiplication sites, helping to build irrigation systems, and planting trees. This program has proved more than successful in Ethiopia, and in one year alone R4 assisted nearly 25,000 families.
While R4 has been a beneficial solution for many countries, Ethiopia has also focused on a more centralized action. Though droughts have become more frequent due to climate change, Ethiopia has a deep-rooted history of them. Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa, with ancestors dating back to the Solomon Empire (12). As such, the country holds strong cultural traditions. One tradition that has helped shape the country’s solutions to long-lasting droughts, is the production of the indigenous crop Ensete ventricosum, a banana tree that is commonly known as the “tree against hunger” (13). Not only can this crop tolerate drought, but as it’s indigenous it has built up a tolerance to diseases, making it a reliable crop in times of struggle. The plant can be processed into storable food, that is ideal for stockpiling in case of emergencies. While it’s important to continue the growth of other crops, farmers in the highlands of Ethiopia have incorporated Ensete into their crops, creating astounding biodiversity. Even better, while the crop is a perennial it can be planted at any time of the year. While the plant doesn’t produce edible fruit, farmers harvest the trunk and bulbs that are rich in carbohydrates. This plant is very cost-effective, and as little as 15 plants can feed a person for an entire year. Currently, this is only cultivated in Ethiopia, but it has the potential to be grown in many other countries. The plant already feeds 20 million of Ethiopia’s citizens but has the potential to sustain even more if growth continues.
While Ethiopia has made significant strides in creating food security, there have been major setbacks in mosquito-transmitted diseases. Countless outbreaks have arisen over the past couple of years, and many of the insurgences have been created by new, invasive species of mosquitoes. This problem has felt nearly impossible to eradicate in Ethiopia and has only become a more uphill battle. To counteract the negative progress, Ethiopia launched a larval source management pilot (LSM), which has begun to test treating the water for mosquito larvae. This solution eradicates the problem before it even begins, and has the potential to help with the new invasive species. The chemical added to the water is larvicide, and when used at recommended doses is still safe for human consumption as well as other wildlife. So far, this has been enacted in 8 major cities. Not only does it help to decrease the amount of mosquitoes, but the pilot has been collecting data to further research against mosquitoes. This data is shared with other countries looking to combat this issue, and the collaboration is a great step forward for a global solution (14).
While food insecurity and malnutrition created by climate change may be a modern problem, Ethiopia believes that tradition can contribute an indispensable solution. As learned through analyzing past UN actions, agroforestry is the usage of trees to halt soil erosion. Additionally, Ethiopian farmers have integrated biodiversity into their land by planting Ensente trees. So, to tackle both malnutrition and food insecurity, Ethiopia recommends for eligible climates to plant Esente trees in addition to current crops. This effort can be done in partnership with the R4 payment tasks. Not only will this solution help to create a long-lasting, storable food source, but if done on a large scale it can help halt the growth of climate change. Once again, agroforestry helps by creating a “carbon sink”, which can help to decrease the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Even better, farmers can start this process any time of the year thanks to the versatile abilities of the Esante plant. This means that in the off-season of farming when there is less work to be done the trees can be planted. Using this method will create a year-long food source that cannot be found in traditional crops.
Not only can traditional methods work to solve food insecurity, but they can also help create a cost-effective solution to mosquito-transmitted diseases. Essential oils extracted from Ethiopian indigenous plants such as golden flowers have long been used to repel mosquitoes. Studies have shown that essential oils have proven to be most effective in repelling mosquitoes (15). An experiment in Ethiopia used an essential oil mixture for mosquito protection and found that at 50% concentration of mosquito, the mixture offered 80% more protection over 12 hours. To further increase this, the mixture could be reapplied every 6 hours, creating an astoundingly effective protection against mosquitoes. This solution can also be made in a cost-efficient way, and could directly bolster the agricultural economy by providing grants to farmers that produce the flower. Not only would this help to protect major cities against mosquitos in a way that wouldn’t harm the environment, but it would also promote biodiversity. This solution, coupled with the continuation of Ethiopian research and LSM pilot can work to largely decrease the amount of malaria and dengue cases.
Overall, Ethiopia is a country with rich traditions that can be used to solve current issues. The country’s history offers unique vantage points, and should not be overlooked in this committee. Ethiopia recognizes how severe climate change has affected the environment, and has presented solutions that will counter the adverse effects on public health, as well as decrease the world’s carbon footprint. In moving forward with this committee, Ethiopia is looking forward to supporting and contributing to solutions that help improve access to malaria vaccines and food insecurity, so long as they are cost-efficient and available to low-income countries. We as a nation recognize the importance of coming together to present innovative solutions and believe that as a committee we can take actions to create a better future.
(1)”How Climate Change Is Fueling Extreme Weather.” Earthjustice, 19 July 2023, earthjustice.org/feature/how-climate-change-is-fueling-extreme-weather. Accessed 18 Nov. 2023.
(2) MMPC. “When Do Mosquitoes Come Out? (Time of Day).” MMPC, 23 Feb. 2023, mandmpestcontrol.com/when-do-mosquitoes-come-out-time-of-day/. Accessed 18 Nov. 2023.
(3) Schlien, Lisa. “WHO Warns Climate Change Causing Surge in Mosquito-Borne Diseases.” World Health Organization, 10 Apr. 2023, www.voanews.com/a/who-warns-climate-change-causing-surge-in-mosquito-borne-diseases/7043700.html. Accessed 18 Nov. 2023.
(4) Sullivan, Will. “Invasive Mosquito Tied to Malaria Outbreak in Ethiopia.” Smithsonian, 3 Nov. 2022, www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/invasive-mosquito-tied-to-malaria-outbreak-in-ethiopia-180981062/. Accessed 18 Nov. 2023.
(5)”Multidimensional Poverty Index 2023 Unstacking global poverty: data for high impact action.” UNDP, hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/Country-Profiles/MPI/ETH.pdf. Accessed 18 Nov. 2023.
(6) “What You Need to Know About Food Security and Climate Change.” The World Bank, 17 Oct. 2022, www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2022/10/17/what-you-need-to-know-about-food-security-and-climate-change. Accessed 18 Nov. 2023.
(7) “The Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP).” The United Nation Refugee Agency, www.unhcr.org/media/global-malaria-action-plan-gmap. Accessed 19 Nov. 2023.
(8) Porter, John Roy. “The World’s Food Supply is Made Insecure by Climate Change.” The United Nations, www.un.org/en/academic-impact/worlds-food-supply-made-insecure-climate-change. Accessed 19 Nov. 2023.
(9) Hobert, Ryan, and Christine Negra. “CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE FUTURE OF FOOD.” United Nation Foundation, 1 Sept. 2020, unfoundation.org/blog/post/climate-change-and-the-future-of-food/. Accessed 19 Nov. 2023.
(10)”The R4 Rural Resilience Initiative.” World Food Programme, www.wfp.org/r4-rural-resilience-initiative. Accessed 19 Nov. 2023.
(11)”Four simple strategies which are helping Ethiopian farmers adapt to climate change.” Oxfam International, www.oxfam.org/en/four-simple-strategies-which-are-helping-ethiopian-farmers-adapt-climate-change. Accessed 20 Nov. 2023.
(12)”Ethiopia.” CultureGrams Online Edition, ProQuest, 2023, online.culturegrams.com/world/world_country.php?contid=1&wmn=Africa&cid=52&cn=Ethiopia. Accessed 14 November 2023.
(13)Gardens, Royal Botanic. “Ethiopian crop ‘enset’ identified as climate coping strategy in drought-prone regions.” PHYS, 23 Nov. 2022, phys.org/news/2022-11-ethiopian-crop-enset-climate-coping.html. Accessed 20 Nov. 2023.
(14) USAID. “An Invasive Mosquito Threatens the Progress to End Malaria in Africa.” Medium, 5 Oct. 2022, medium.com/usaid-2030/an-invasive-mosquito-threatens-the-progress-to-end-malaria-in-africa-da0da38eb61. Accessed 20 Nov. 2023.
(15) Kaliyaperumal Karunamoorthi, et al. “Mosquito Repellent Activity of Essential Oil of Ethiopian Ethnomedicinal Plant against Afro-tropical Malarial Vector Anopheles Arabiensis.” Journal of King Saud University – Science, vol. 26, no. 4, Oct. 2014, pp. 305-10, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jksus.2014.01.001. Accessed 20 Nov. 2023.