Warmer climates are leading to a surge in infectious diseases in Bangladesh as children and elderly people living in cities are the most vulnerable group to it, says a World Bank report.
The research titled "Climate Afflictions Report" also finds a link between the shifting climatic conditions and the increase in respiratory, waterborne, and mental health issues.
With further climate changes predicted, more physical and mental health issues are likely to emerge, noted the report that was launched on Thursday at an online programme.
Shedding light on Bangladesh's vulnerability to changing climate conditions, Mercy Tembon, World Bank country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan, said, "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."
Over the past 44 years, Bangladesh experienced a 0.5 degrees Celsius temperature rise as the summers are getting hotter and longer. Meanwhile, winters have turned shorter and warmer while the monsoons are being extended from February to October.
With the changed climate patterns, the country's distinct seasonal variations are becoming blurred. By 2050, the country's temperatures are predicted to rise by 1.4 degrees Celsius.
While location, age and wealth status of people influence the spread of infectious diseases, the study found that the likelihood of contracting an infectious disease is about 20 percentage points lower in the dry season compared to monsoon, states the report.
Respiratory illness rises with the increase in temperature and humidity. For a 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature, people are more likely to suffer from respiratory illnesses by 5.7 percentage points; for a 1% increase in humidity, the chances of catching a respiratory infection rise by 1.5 percentage points, according to the report.
The research said erratic weather conditions played a key role in the 2019 dengue outbreak in Dhaka city, while 77% of the country's total dengue-related deaths took place. In that year, Dhaka recorded more than three times rainfall than the average in February followed by high temperature and humidity between March and July.
According to the research findings, urban areas and cities are more prone to vector-borne diseases and respiratory illnesses.
Mental health gets affected too
The changed weather patterns also affect mental health, says the report.
It said more people suffer from depression during winter while the level of anxiety disorders increases with temperature and humidity. Besides, women are at higher risk of depression than men, while men are more susceptible to anxiety.
"By recording accurate weather data at local levels and linking it with health data, it will be possible to predict potential outbreaks of diseases and establish a climate-based dengue early warning system," said Iffat Mahmud, World Bank senior operations officer and co-author of the report.
The report further suggests that Bangladesh can handle outbreaks of infectious and other climate-sensitive diseases better by strengthening its health systems.
Saber Hossain Chowdhury, member of the parliament and chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and Professor Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development and chair of the Expert Advisory Group for the Climate Vulnerable Forum also spoke at the event.