New research in Asia probes links between climate, health, livelihoods

New research in Asia probes links between climate, health, livelihoods
22 February 2021

“Country assessments in Afghanistan, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan on linkages between climate and health and livelihoods are something new and will contribute a wealth of knowledge and understanding for our work on resilience.”

That was the view put forward by Juan Daniel Reyes, Finnish Red Cross Asia-Pacific representative, at an online workshop organized by the IFRC and the Climate Centre last week to share recent research findings.

The country-level assessments are a joint initiative of the Finnish Red Cross and the IFRC Asia Pacific Regional Office.

“I want to recognize the commitment of the five National Societies in engaging with the process and involving national stakeholders,” said Gwendolyn Pang, APRO Acting Deputy Regional Director.

“I’m sure the analysis developed in these five country assessments will provide the evidence base to build meaningful and sustainable climate-related activities in these countries.”

Surprise element

Climate Centre Director Maarten Van Aalst added: “This research should be a foundation for action. This is not a simple linear analysis but intricately links issues.

“The recommendations on local solutions, raising the voices of affected communities and the gender perspective, add a lot of value.”

A country-focused presentation on the key research-findings and main recommendations was preceded by a short quiz focusing on the main climate projections and impacts on health, water and sanitation, risk reduction and livelihoods.

Participants also shared what surprised them from the research findings, areas where they required more information, and what they would prioritize for action.

The group from Nepal, for example, had been surprised to find relatively strong links between climate change and reproductive health.

Higher temperatures, for example, are leading to crop loss, increased water scarcity and a receding tree line. Among poor and low-income households, this results in lower food availability for pregnant women, and more women report uterine prolapse when they are forced to carry water and firewood on their heads over longer distances.

Delegates in the Afghanistan (photo) break-out group highlighted the importance of action on the links between climate change, hygiene, water security, and the position of women and girls.

‘Climate reality’

The links between climate and health are not always direct, members of the Myanmar group found, arguing that research should help prioritize areas for action.

The Nepal group also noted current longer rainfall during summer. “We see it every year, but the evidence-based finding is really a surprise for us,” a representative of the Nepal Red Cross said.

“What has come as a shock to us is that 90 per cent of our agriculture is going to be affected by climate change,” said a delegate from the Pakistan Red Crescent. “We can now advocate with our government on the basis of this evidence-based research.”

For the Maldives, the research findings were actually familiar “because we know the reality of the climate crisis,” according to a representative from the National Society.

The hope there remained that research will help focus climate solutions for communities dependent on biodiversity, protect coral reefs, reduce heatwave impacts, diversify livelihoods, promote nutrition, and more.

A new module of the Climate Training Kit on climate, health and water and sanitation is now online, designed to help trainers and facilitators within the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and beyond without having to fly experts around the world.

Country assessments in three more countries – Mongolia and Timor-Leste and Fiji Islands – are also currently underway.

A doctor with the Afghan Red Crescent Society Kapisa branch’s mobile health team checks a boy’s chest as part of a routine local check-up in Parwan province, in the north-west of the country in December. Afghan participants at an online workshop highlighted the importance of action on what they said are the strong links between climate, hygiene, water security, and the position of women and girls. (Photo: Meer Abdullah/ARCS via IFRC)