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Over 150 hospitals in Bangladesh at high risk for extreme weather

First-ever ‘Health Day’ takes place at COP28

Published : 04 Dec 2023 04:24 PM

Climate change is having an increasing impact on health of the global people, and experts believe that global health risks will increase further.  

As a result, 1 in 12 hospitals around the world could face partial or total shutdown from climate change extreme, while at least 150 hospitals in Bangladesh will be at high risk for extreme weather. 

The information came from a new report released by XDI (Cross Dependency Initiative), a global leader in physical climate risk analysis. The XDI, which is a part of The Climate Risk Group, released the report on Sunday (December 3, 2023), ahead of the Health Day of COP28. 

The 2023 UN Climate Change Conference as well as the COP28 in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO), UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention and the UK-based charitable foundation Wellcome Trust and some other partners hosted the first-ever ‘Health Day’ at the global climate conference on Sunday (December 3, 2023). The COP28 is taking place in Dubai of the UAE from November 30 to December 12.  

Thousands of delegates joined the fourth day of the COP28 summit, which was designated as ‘health day’ and where topics of discussion include air quality and the unhealthy affects of climate change.

In the Health Day, over 120 countries back COP28 UAE Climate and Health Declaration delivering breakthrough moment for health in climate talks. The Declaration was announced at the ‘World Climate Action Summit’ where global leaders gathered for the start of COP28.

Signed by 123 countries, the Declaration is announced one day ahead of the first-ever ‘Health Day’ 

at a COP and marks a world first in acknowledging the need for governments to save communities and prepare healthcare systems to cope with climate-related health impacts such as extreme heat, air pollution and communicable diseases.

Physicians, experts on public health, environmentalists, activists and country representatives at this year’s COP28 summit have called for greater global efforts to protect people from the increasing health and safety risks posed by climate change.

With global temperatures set to continue climbing for decades, experts said that the countries will need to boost funding for healthcare as heat-waves become more dangerous and diseases like malaria and cholera spread.

“Climate-related impacts have become one of the greatest threats to human health in the 21st century,” COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber said in a statement.

The first-ever COP28 Health Day focused on five key topics-- Showcasing evidence base and clear impact pathways between climate change and human health; Promoting ‘health arguments for climate action’ and health co-benefits of mitigation; Highlighting needs, barriers and best practices for strengthening climate resilience of health systems; Identifying and scaling adaptation measures to address the impacts of climate change on human health; and Taking action at the nexus of health and relief, recovery and peace.

The Health Day featured some events, including how climate change affects the health; health response to climate change in context of G20; how ambitious emission reductions can save lives; adaptation and resilience to address the health impacts of climate change; and public-private partnerships for healthcare climate action. 

However, the 2023 XDI Global Hospital Infrastructure Physical Climate Risk Report says that the hospitals situated in coastal regions and close to rivers are at most risks.  

The XDI report showcases that 1 in 12 hospitals around the world could face partial or total shutdown from extreme weather if countries fail to curb fossil fuel emissions. The report analysed 1,244 hospitals in Bangladesh, and found that about 183 hospitals (14.7 per cent) are at high risk to face total or partial shutdown by 2100. 

As a result, communities hit by cyclone, severe storm, flooding, and other disasters could be cut off from emergency hospital care right when they need it most, with low and middle-income countries like Bangladesh are at most risk, says the report. 

“Climate change is increasingly impacting the health of people around the world. What happens when severe weather results in hospital shutdowns as well? Our analysis shows that without a rapid phase out of fossil fuels, the global health risks will be exacerbated further, as thousands of hospitals become unable to deliver services during crises,” said Dr Karl Mallon, Director of Science and Technology, XDI. 

Professor Dr Iqbal Kabir, director of Climate Change and Health Promotion Unit of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; told the Bangladesh Post, “Climate change’s impact on hospitals is an urgent global health crisis. In Bangladesh, as per the XDI estimate, being the victim of global emission, 14.7 per cent of hospitals face shutdown risks by 2100 due to extreme weather. So, immediate global emission reduction is crucial. Without swift action to curb emissions, thousands of hospitals globally could face operational disruptions during crises, leaving communities vulnerable and underscoring the imperative for a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels.”

The XDI report says that 16,245 hospitals face a high risk of complete or partial shutdown due to extreme weather. This number significantly surpasses the current count of vulnerable hospitals and parallels the classification of uninsurable residential or commercial structures.

All the 16,245 identified high-risk hospitals will necessitate extensive adaptation measures where feasible. Despite substantial investment in these adaptations, relocation will emerge as the sole viable option for a considerable number of hospitals facing the highest risks. 

Among the 16,245 high-risk hospitals projected for 2100, a staggering 71 per cent (11,512) of these facilities are situated in low and middle-income countries.

The XDI report mentioned that limiting global warming to 1.8 degrees Celsius through an expedited phase-out of fossil fuels would effectively halve the risk of infrastructure damage to hospitals compared to scenarios with high emissions. 

On the other hand, under high-emission circumstances, the risk of hospital damage from extreme weather would surge more than four-fold (311 per cent) by the century’s end. This escalation would reduce to 106 per cent in a low-emission scenario.

The report estimated that under a high emission scenario (RCP 8.5), Bangladesh has a 79 per cent damage risk increase by 2020-2050 and 316 per cent risk by 202-2100. On the other hand, under the low emission scenario (RCP 2.6), Bangladesh will face a 40 per cent damage risk increase by 2020-2050 and 95 per cent by 2020-2050.

South East Asia currently bears the highest percentage of hospitals at high risk from extreme weather globally, with nearly 1 in 5 hospitals (18.4 per cent) projected to face potential total or partial shutdown by the century’s close in high-emission scenarios. 

South Asia accounts for the highest number of hospitals at risk, aligning with its dense population. If emissions remain high, projections suggest that by 2050, one-third of the most vulnerable hospitals worldwide (3,357) will be situated in South Asia. By 2100, this count could skyrocket to 5,894.

The report highlighted that hospitals situated in coastal regions and close to rivers encounter the most imminent threats. Riverine and surface water flooding primarily pose the risks. 

However, by the century’s end, coastal inundation—exacerbated by rising sea levels—will rapidly escalate, becoming the most prominent hazard after riverine flooding by 2100.

The report mentioned that the driving hazards for Bangladesh by 2020 are riverine flooding, surface water flooding and forest fire. By 2050 and 2100, the driving hazards will also include coastal inundation.

“The most obvious thing to dramatically reduce this risk to hospitals, and keep communities safe, is to reduce emissions,” said Dr Karl Mallon.

 The 2023 XDI Global Hospital Infrastructure Physical Climate Risk Report analyses how continued emissions will affect the vulnerability of over 200,000 hospitals around the world to six climate change hazards: coastal inundation, riverine flooding, surface water flooding, forest fire, extreme wind and cyclone wind.  

The analysis focuses on physical damage to building structures, and calculates how different emission scenarios can reduce risk. 

As part of the report, XDI is releasing the names, location and level of risk (high, medium, low) for over 200,000 hospitals around the world. XDI called upon all governments to check for high risk hospitals in their region and conduct further analysis to understand and reduce this risk.

“Governments have a duty to populations to ensure the ongoing delivery of critical services. For individual governments not to take action on this information, or for the global community not to support governments in need, is a blatant disregard for the wellbeing of their citizens,” said Dr Mallon.