People living in urban hubs such as Dhaka and Chittagong are more susceptible to vector-borne diseases
Bangladesh will witness a more drastic appearance of climate change, which will worsen the dengue outbreak in the coming years, says a recent report by the World Bank.
In its Climate Afflictions Report 2021, the multilateral agency said that it had found a link between shifting climatic conditions and increase in respiratory, waterborne and mosquito-borne diseases as well as mental health issues.
The findings of the report were released at a media call on Thursday.
An analysis of the 2019 dengue outbreak data revealed that urban cities report the highest incidence of vector-borne diseases, such as dengue, with Dhaka alone recording 77% of the deaths, says the report.
In the same year, Dhaka recorded more than three times the average February rainfall followed by high temperature and humidity between March and July, it said.
The World Bank predicts that Bangladesh’s temperature will rise by approximately 1.4 degrees celsius around 2050 and annual rainfall is expected to rise by 74 millimeters by 2040–2059.
Given that rise in temperature and heavy rainfall are ideal conditions for mosquito breeding, the report predicts a worse dengue outbreak in the future.
"With more evidence showing a pronounced impact of climate change on physical and mental health, Bangladesh needs to build on its success in adaptations to ensure a stronger health system that averts outbreaks of emerging climate-sensitive diseases,” Mercy Tembon, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan, said.
The report also linked infectious diseases and mental health situations to climate change and found that children and the elderly and those living in large cities like Dhaka and Chittagong were especially vulnerable.
The report cited the fact that urban areas such as Dhaka and Chittagong were more likely to experience higher infections of vector-borne disease-34% compared to the national average of 25%.
During the dry season, Dhaka and Chittagong also had more cases of respiratory illness, which could be caused by higher levels of air pollution.
Bangladesh needs to change its strategy to fight climate change, said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD).
“When it comes to responding to climate change, we are mostly prepared for drastic disasters such as floods or cyclones,” he said, adding that slower changes like a rise in temperature had not been properly addressed yet. “We need to change our perception and deduce evidence with local scientists to handle this efficiently.”
Furthermore, the weather pattern also affects mental health. More people suffer from depression during winter while the level of anxiety disorders increases with temperature and humidity, the report states.
Additionally, women are at higher risk than men where depression is concerned, while men are more susceptible to anxiety. More people (16%) have been reported to be depressed in Dhaka and Chittagong compared to the national average (31%).
Lawmaker Saber Hossain Chowdhury, who attended the event, stressed viewing the issue of mental health as a matter of public health rather than a segregated issue.
“I think in the age of Covid we have learned that public health just doesn’t mean doctors and hospitals; rather preventive and post-recovery stages play equally significant roles in tackling any pandemic,” he said.
He added that a similar approach should be taken in dealing with dengue and mental health crises.