Climate and health

The climate crisis is a health crisis. Climate change is moving both the environmental and social determinants of health in the wrong direction, including mental health.

It is widening inequalities and creating new vulnerabilities through its impacts on health, water supplies, nutrition, livelihoods, air quality, psychosocial well-being, productivity and income, and displacement amongst others.

The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is uniquely placed globally to support health services to vulnerable populations. Reducing the health impacts of climate change is one of the pillars of the Movement’s ambitions on climate and we are providing technical support to achieve them. 

Research: anticipatory action, epidemics, air quality, finance

Working with humanitarian actors, universities and public health institutions, we are prominent in the field of research on health-related anticipatory action and other systems, and climate finance. In partnership with the IFRC and Médecins Sans Frontières, our experts jointly lead the working group on health with the Anticipation Hub (link below).

We are supporting the development of anticipatory action for epidemics by assessing a wide range of climate-sensitive infectious disease in Latin American, the Caribbean and East Africa, and we’re developing an early warning system for the combined effects of humidity, heat and air pollution in Thailand.

We engage with National Societies and other humanitarian partners to help them adapt health programmes to climate change; goals include assessing how developing risks may impact the humanitarian system, including mental health.

Climate impacts on health and livelihoods

Climate impacts on health and livelihoods

These assessments on the impacts of climate change on health and livelihoods describe major trends and gaps in countries in the Asia Pacific region or Africa. They include climate projections as well as WASH issues and sexual and reproductive health rights, a policy review, and recommendations.

A man from the Dhikil region of Djibouti shows off his charcoal product. To adapt to increasingly erratic weather, many communities have abandoned pastoralism and resorted to charcoal burning. (Photo: Anne Wanjiru/IFRC)

Read the assessments

Anticipatory action and health

One of the flagship initiatives of the Climate Centre has been the provision of support to establish forecast-based financing and anticipatory action.
Many relevant Climate Centre programmes address the negative health impacts associated with extreme-weather events.

These include responding to the respiratory implications of volcanic ash in Ecuador (photo); water-borne disease risk due to cyclones and floods in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, the Philippines, Uganda and Zambia; malnutrition and food insecurity from drought in Niger; psychosocial support amid extreme winter conditions in Mongolia; and preparedness for extreme heat in Vietnam.

Climate change and WASH

Climate change is adversely affecting human health, directly through exposure to hazards and indirectly through natural and socio-economic systems.

Intersecting issues such as annual variability and the rising frequency and intensity of extreme weather, pressures on natural resources, voluntary and involuntary migration, and rapid urbanization have serious consequences on both physical as well as mental health and well-being.

This publication frames Red Cross and Red Crescent commitments on water, sanitation and hygiene in a changing climate, exploring the urgency of climate action on health in general and offers case studies for National Societies and their partners.


Compound risks: heat, humidity, air pollution

The IFRC, the Climate Centre and the Prudence Foundation have jointly released a scoping review of academic literature from 2000 to 2023, involving more than 30 papers, to better understand the compound risk of heat, humidity, and air pollution on human health.

Extensive research has been conducted on their individual implications for people, but the compound effects of the three together has not been as closely studied.

Read the report
Compound risks: heat, humidity, air pollution

Protecting Nicaraguan cane-cutters from extreme heat

NEW: This film from La Isla Network with Talking Eyes Media, funded by ENBEL, demonstrates how special protocols for extreme heat are saving workers’ lives in Nicaragua.

Kristin Aunan, CICERO research director and coordinator of the ENBEL project, said: “Workers’ health in the face of climate change is often overlooked despite causing great human suffering and economic consequences in many places in the world. We hope this film and the work showcased in it will contribute to get this important topic higher on the agenda.”

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