Climate change is hard on children, making them vulnerable to infectious diseases too, a team of researchers has said in a study published in the journal ‘Science of the Total Environment’. For instance, during the study conducted in Varanasi city in Uttar Pradesh, the researchers from Banaras Hindu University (BHU) observed that a 1 degree Celsius rise in maximum temperature was associated with an increase in diarrhea and skin-disease cases by 3.97 per cent and 3.94 per cent, respectively.
Overall, they found that climate parameters accounted for 9-18 per cent of the total infectious disease cases among kids. The study which was conducted among 461 children under 16-years-of-age in Varanasi had probed the association between climate parameters and infectious diseases in children under 16-years-of-age in Varanasi.
The researchers concluded that maximum temperature and humidity are important drivers leading to infectious disease among children. Driven by human-made activities, climate change may challenge the gains in the public health sector made over the years. Globally, it is estimated that children bear most of the burden of disease due to climate change, with the poorest disproportionately affected.
Led by R K Mall along with Nidhi Singh, T. Banerjee, (all from central Indo-Gangetic Plain region DST-Mahamana Center of Excellence in Climate Change Research, BHU) and Akhilesh Gupta from Department of Science and Technology under Union Science and Technology Ministry established that climate parameters like temperature, humidity, rainfall, solar radiation, and wind speed were associated with infectious diseases like gastrointestinal diseases, respiratory diseases, vector-borne diseases, and skin diseases among children in the holy city.
The study further added that climate parameters accounted for 9-18 per cent of the total infectious disease cases, while non-climate parameters account for the rest. "Upper respiratory tract infection (mostly cold and flu) and gastrointestinal infections (mainly diarrhea) constitute 78 per cent of the disease burden. Socio-economic conditions and child anthropometry modified the climate-disease association with a high proportion of children found suffering from stunting, wasting, and underweight conditions," the study added.
The authors added that findings from the study drew the attention of government and policymakers to prioritize effective measures for child health as the present association may increase disease burden in the future under climate-change scenarios. The malnourished pediatric population in India may be hit the worst.
"The study further inspires and provides a background for more epidemiological studies to provide evidence for the future burden of diseases associated with childhood malady. However, climate change-related health impacts studies, particularly for children in India, are at an early stage," the authors said.
According to UNICEF, between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress.