The Zimbabwean government has been urged to prioritize the fight against climate change which is wreaking havoc across the country and aiding hunger and poverty in communities.
In a speech to commemorate World Health Day, the World Health Organisation Country Representative, Dr Alex Gasasira, called on accelerated action by leaders to ensure that the impacts of climate change are mitigated.
“Climate change disproportionately affects the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in communities. We call for accelerated action by leaders and all to preserve and protect health by investigating in mitigation of the climate crisis.,” said Dr Gasasira.
According to the WHO, climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity contributing to environmental risks that are killing around 13 million people every year.
Consequently, Zimbabwe has not been spared from the devastating impacts of climate change with heavy rainfalls, characterized by floods and cyclones as well as droughts.
According to the meteorological services of Zimbabwe, since 1987 the country has experienced its six warmest years on record, with daily minimum and maximum temperatures have risen by approximately 2°C over the past century.
This has seen the country experience extremes of weather over the past two decades where Zimbabwe has had to deal with 10 droughts, decreased freshwater and destroyed biodiversity.
Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr John Mangwiro said climate change has the potential to stall the country’s development, and pose a serious risk to food security, health, and adaptive capacity.
He noted that the government has shown its commitment to addressing climate change through our National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS) which seeks to establish specific provisions for dealing with climate change issues, understanding the extent of the threat, and putting in place specific actions to manage potential impacts.
“In addition, our commitment to developing a climate-resilient Zimbabwe has also been demonstrated by the elevation of the Climate Change Office into a fully-fledged Climate Change Department,” noted Dr Mangwiro.
Due to climate change, Zimbabwe experienced Cyclone Idai in 2019 which affected more than 270 000 people leaving over 341 people who have lost their lives, and massive destruction of infrastructure including clinics, hospitals, and schools amongst others.
The country also suffered the tropical cyclones Ana amongst other climate shocks, signalling an urgent need for all stakeholders to start conversations around climate change as well as mitigation plans.
“Children are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change which is becoming more widespread. As extreme weather events such as cyclones, droughts and heatwaves increase in frequency and ferocity, I call on the government to create risk-informed policies that place climate resilience at the centre of national strategies,” said UNICEF Representative, Dr Tajudeen Oyewale.
Statistics from the WHO show that in Zimbabwe, if not mitigated, climate change will cause average temperatures to rise by about 3°C before the end of this century.
Annual rainfall could decline by between 5% and 18%, especially in the south. Rainfall will become more variable. There will be an increase in droughts, floods and storms.
This will affect Zimbabwe’s food Climate Change in Zimbabwe’s security, health, energy supply and economy.