NEW DELHI: As temperatures rise in a changing climate scenario, children born in India will be particularly vulnerable to a greater health burden of malnutrition, air pollution and deadly heatwaves, according to a major new report published in The Lancet journal on Thursday.
The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change is a comprehensive yearly analysis tracking progress across 41 key indicators.
The annual project is a collaboration between 120 experts from 35 institutions, including the World Health Organisation and World Bank.
The authors noted that climate change is already damaging the health of the world’s children, and is set to shape the well-being of an entire generation unless the world meets Paris Agreement targets to limit warming well below 2 degrees Celsius.
Poornima Prabhakaran, co-author of the report, noted that few countries are likely to suffer from the health effects of climate change as much as India, with its huge population and high rates of healthcare inequality, poverty, and malnutrition.
“While the report highlights the effects of climate change on people of all age groups, here what we are trying to do is to bring the focus back on children, because there is a sense of urgency about the issue,” the professor at New Delhi’s Public Health Foundation of India told PTI.
“Every child who is born today, the future will be decided by the changing climate. Unless we take some serious action now, by the time they reach they reach their second, third or fourth decade of life, things will be every different because they will be living in a world that will be at least 4 degrees warmer,” she said.
In India, she noted, diarrhoeal infections, a major cause of child mortality, will spread into new areas, whilst deadly heatwaves, similar to the one in 2015 that killed thousands of people in the country, could soon become the norm.
While the government has launched many initiatives and programmes to address a variety of diseases and risk factors over the past two decades, this report shows the public health gains achieved over the past 50 years could soon be reversed by the changing climate.