Short Report – Special Collection: Climate Change

Climate change, disaster management and primary health care in Zimbabwe

Sunanda Ray, Tinashe Goronga, Phillip T. Chigiya, Farai D. Madzimbamuto
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 14, No 1 | a3684 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v14i1.3684 | © 2022 Sunanda Ray, Tinashe Goronga, Phillip T. Chigiya, Farai D. Madzimbamuto | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 June 2022 | Published: 30 September 2022

About the author(s)

Sunanda Ray, Department of Medical Education, Faculty of Medicine, University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana
Tinashe Goronga, Centre for Health Equity, Harare, Zimbabwe
Phillip T. Chigiya, Centre for Health Equity, Harare, Zimbabwe
Farai D. Madzimbamuto, Department of Anaesthetics and Critical Care, Faculty of Medicine, University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana


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Abstract

The health crises related to climate change in African countries are predicted to get worse and more prevalent. The response to catastrophic events such as cyclones, flooding and landslides must be rapid and well-coordinated. Slower adverse events such as droughts, heat stress and food insecurity must similarly be anticipated, planned for and resourced. There are lessons to be learnt by the health system following the crisis created by Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe during March 2019, which required a massive humanitarian response to mitigate the impact of torrential rainfall on lives and livelihoods. Several researchers and organisations documented the emergency response in detail. They reported that the government response was hampered by a lack of preparedness, poor planning, inadequate resource mobilisation and weak coordination. Rural communities did not access the early warning cyclone alerts disseminated through television, print and social media, nor did they appreciate the seriousness of events until it was too late. Primary health care (PHC) teams are familiar and trusted by the communities they serve and have a critical role in raising public awareness and in documenting the evolving impact of climate change, using established health indicators and local narratives. PHC leaders and providers have the knowledge and skills to mediate between government bodies, international agencies, other stakeholders and communities on the predicted impact of climate change on health outcomes, highlighting the vulnerability of disadvantaged and impoverished groups. They are also able to work with community leaders, using indigenous knowledge on weather patterns, to build local engagement in protection plans.

Contribution: This article describes the role health professionals and civil society can play in educating the public on the dangers faced in the near future as a result of climate change and actions that can be taken to become more resilient and to mitigate this impact.


Keywords

climate change; primary health care; cyclone; Cyclone Idai; Zimbawe.

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