Climate change is negatively affecting people’s sexual and reproductive health. So say experts at the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT). They are confirmed in this by WHO (World Health Organisation), which is addressing the public health implications of climate change at the climate summit COP28 in Dubai.
Climate change and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights
“Climate change harms almost all indicators of sexual and reproductive health, including maternal health, fertility and the risk of sexual and gender-related violence,” says Anke van der Kwaak, one of KIT’s experts on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). Low-income countries that are heavily affected by increasing droughts, floods, diseases and crop pests due to climate change, SRHR will only worsen without countermeasures, according to van der Kwaak.
Irene de Vries, also SRHR expert at KIT, endorses the premise of planetary health: “the health of our planet is linked to the health of humans”. Disasters disrupt health care systems and access to SRHR services including maternity care and education on sexuality. At the same time, efforts that improve SRHR also help in the fight against climate change. “The global fight for SRHR and for a healthier planet are both rooted in principles of equity and justice.”
Climate change, conflict and health
Climate change exacerbates conflict and fragility. Partly as a result, the state of health care in conflict areas is deteriorating. “To sustainably improve healthcare in these areas, you cannot ignore the negative effects of climate change,” says Eelco Jacobs advisor at KIT and one of the initiators of the recently established Centre for Health Systems Strengthening in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Settings. We need to look beyond (medical) emergency relief alone. Jacobs advocates a bottom-up approach in strengthening government health structures in fragile conditions and conflict-affected areas. Find local initiatives and structures that do work and strengthen them. This requires tailor-made and context-specific policies that incorporate flexibility.