NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 25- Kenya’s high disease burden is likely to be felt even more if nothing is done to deal with the impacts of climate change.,
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka said on Wednesday that if Kenyans and the government failed to take initiative to conserve the environment, diseases like malaria would become unbearable.
Official government statistics indicate that 20 million people are at risk of malaria infection in Kenya annually.
“Climate change is expected to increase the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events and this poses grave challenges. Diseases such as malaria are likely to affect more people so we need to see action that is going to ease the situation,” the VP said.
Speaking at the official opening of the 3rd East Africa Health and Scientific Conference, the Vice President emphasised that climate change is a serious challenge to the health of Kenyans.
He however noted that the threat of climate change cannot be effectively addressed without considering the rising energy needs of poor people and countries.
“Neither can we effectively address global poverty without accounting for the impacts of climate change on agriculture, disease patterns and catastrophic weather events,” he said.
The Malaria epidemic is already causing 34,000 deaths of children under five years of age in Kenya annually and 3.7 million more are already at risk of infection.
“Cooler areas will be warmer and areas which were not malaria zones will become malaria zone. Respiratory diseases will increase and you will also find yellow fever cases also increasing,” said Medical Services Permanent Secretary Professor James Ole Kiyiapi.
“We must influence what happens in the international arena because allocation of resources for climate change will be based on the decisions that are taken at the global level,” he added.
Professor Kiyiapi, who is also an environmental expert at the same time called on Kenyans to plant more trees to increase the country’s forest cover which is at two percent, far below the recommended 10 percent.
“But that means also we have to stop destruction because you can be planting more and destroying at the same time,” he said.
“It also means not planting only in gazetted forests areas, but if every farmer, every land owner can allocate a small portion of their farm to tree planting, overall the net effect is that you will have more trees and will do much to alleviate the problem,” he said adding that the current fire outbreak in some key forests in the country must be contained in less than a week to avoid huge loss of the forest cover.
The PS also said the government needs to consider the livelihood of the people living in Mau forest for conservation efforts to be effective.
“It is a range of interventions, you don’t just protect the forests you also look at the livelihoods of the people who depend on the forest so if you give people alternatives or if you improve their farm productivity then you reduce the dependency of the people on the forests.”