Bangladesh has experienced a 0.5°C increase in temperature over the past 44 years, leading to a rise in infectious diseases and affecting mental health of people, finds a new study of the World Bank.
The summers are getting hotter and longer, winters are warmer and the monsoon seasons are being extended from February to October, it said.
The Climate Afflictions Report unveiled on Thursday finds a link between the shifting climatic conditions and the increase in respiratory, waterborne and mosquito-borne diseases as well as mental health issues.
With further climate change predicted, more physical and mental health issues are likely to emerge. The most vulnerable are children and the elderly, and those living in large cities like Dhaka and Chattogram, according to the report.
“Bangladesh has remarkably tackled climate change challenges, despite being among the most vulnerable countries. It has built resilience against natural disasters and introduced homegrown solutions to improve agricultural productivity,” said Mercy Tembon, WB Country Director.
With more evidence showing a pronounced impact of climate change on physical and mental health, Bangladesh needs to build on its success in adaptations to ensure a stronger health system that averts outbreaks of emerging climate-sensitive diseases, she suggested.
Erratic weather conditions played a key role in the 2019 dengue outbreak in Dhaka city where 77 percent of the country’s total dengue-related deaths occurred, the report said. That year, Dhaka recorded more than three times the average February rainfall followed by high temperature and humidity between March and July.
For a 1°C rise in temperature, people are more likely to suffer from respiratory illnesses by 5.7 percentage points; for a 1 percent increase in humidity, the chances of catching a respiratory infection rise by 1.5 percentage points.
The weather pattern also affects mental health. More people suffer from depression during winter while the level of anxiety disorders increases with temperature and humidity.
Women are at higher risk than men for depression, while men are more susceptible to anxiety.
The study was conducted among 15,383 individuals and 3,610 households during August-September period of 2019 and during the January-February dry season in 2020.
“Going forward, by ensuring stronger data collection, Bangladesh can better track the evolution of climate-sensitive diseases,” said Iffat Mahmud, WB senior operations officer and co-author of the report.
Particularly by recording accurate weather data at local levels and linking it with health data, it will be possible to predict potential disease outbreaks and to establish a climate-based dengue early warning system, the WB researcher added.
By strengthening health systems, Bangladesh can deal with outbreaks of infectious and other climate-sensitive diseases, the report suggests.
Further, awareness building, and community mobilisation through creation of self-help groups, will help the country address mental health issues more effectively, according to WB.