Mozambique’s Climate, Environment and Health Observatory: The first in Sub-Saharan Africa

24 May 2018

Climate change, climate variability, and extreme weather events are already threatening health in Mozambique. Floods and droughts recurrently place Mozambique’s food security and livelihoods at risk. Dengue fever outbreaks, first occurring in the north of the country, are now moving southwards. New infectious diseases, such as Rift Valley Fever and Zika, are being detected. Malaria, cholera, diarrhoeal disease and malnutrition are climate-sensitive, and are likely to increase with rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns. These are just a few of the challenges that climate change poses to human health in Mozambique.

Recognising the need for urgent action, the Ministry of Health, with support from WHO and development partners, established the Climate, Environment and Health Platform of the National Health Observatory.

The National Health Observatory, launched in July 2016, helps strengthen health information systems. Within the observatory, the Climate, Environment and Health Platform generates and promotes scientific evidence to inform health decision-making and action. The platform is coordinated by the National Institute of Health, the research arm of the Ministry of Health.

What are the objectives of the Climate, Environment and Health Platform?

1. Provide simplified information on changes in the epidemiological profile of climate-sensitive diseases;

2. Make future forecasts of changes in the profile of diseases and their impact on the health sector resulting from current and future climate deterioration. Propose measures to mitigate these impacts;

3. Provide maps that illustrate the relationship between climate trends and the epidemiological profile of climate-sensitive diseases;

4. Raise awareness of the health impacts of climate change and ways to mitigate these effects;

5. Propose impact assessments of interventions and policies with a focus on mitigating the impacts of climate change in public health;

6. Share information and experiences within the region on the impact of climate change on public health;

7. Organise national forums for debate and reflection on the impact of climate change on public health;

8. Prepare annual reports and periodic bulletins on the impact of climate on health in Mozambique.

To date, the Climate, Environment and Health Platform has made great process toward achieving its stated objectives:

  • The platform started building partnerships for better information sharing with other sectors. In 2016, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Meteorology to enable the sharing of climate information for improved health surveillance and early warning.
  • The platform has been involved in the design and implementation of the USAID-funded Climate Change Adaptation, Thought Leadership and Assessments (ATLAS) project, which seeks to assess the impact of climate change on the profile on diarrhoeal disease and malaria in Mozambique. The results of this project can be viewed here.
  • The platform has also been involved in an assessment of the impact of the 2015-2016 drought on the national health system, funded by Mozambique’s National Research Fund. The study, which focuses on the provinces of Gaza and Inhambane, analyses the impact of drought on the incidence of disease and acute malnutrition, and the knowledge, attitudes and practices of health professionals in those two provinces.
  • In June 2017, the platform organised Mozambique’s first high-level debate to promote joint reflection on Climate Change and Health. The event successfully raised awareness among key stakeholders in relation to the current and future impact of climate change in the health sector and advocated for a number of multi-sectoral responses to mitigate this impact.
  • The platform has been involved in the creation of a multi-sectoral committee on climate and health, whose main mission is to support the health sector in advocacy.

The establishment of the platform marks the starting point of a long journey towards building a climate-resilient health system in Mozambique. Since its establishment, the platform’s efforts have enhanced Mozambique’s capacity to prepare for, cope with, and manage the health risks posed by climate variability and change.

Since 2016, the momentum generated within Mozambique’s national response to climate change and health has been noteworthy and serves as an example for other countries in the region. With the continued effort of institutions like the National Health Observatory, sustained improvements in population health outcomes within the context of a changing climate are possible.