• Planetary disruption also creates health risks.

Another effect of climate change that has not been considered is its impact on health. Vassen Kauppaymuthoo cites the example of certain diseases that are spreading. “The outbreaks we have now, like leptospirosis and dengue fever, are most likely due to the floods we had earlier this year. They allowed mosquitoes to spread, as did rodents,” he says. Suresh Boodhoo also shares this opinion. He believes that in the long term, the country will face diseases that were not common. “We hope that there will be no cholera, as is already the case in some countries in the region. With rising temperatures and heavy downpours, human health risks being affected,” he explains. The two speakers deplore that no measure was mentioned in the Budget to deal with this situation.

Additional deaths

Dr Shameem Jaumdally, a Mauritian virologist, practices in South Africa. He says the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that from 2030 to 2050 there will be around 250,000 additional deaths due to health problems linked to climate change. Among the examples given, he cites oppressive heat, as was the case in India or Saudi Arabia. He also mentions complications with diseases transmitted by animals such as mosquitoes which spread dengue or malaria. The WHO adds that there will also be a problem of malnutrition for people who will not have the necessary nutrients, due to the consequent droughts and floods which will affect the agricultural sector (the cultivation of fruits and vegetables or the breeding of animals).

The virologist adds that the effects of climate change are mainly felt by a more vulnerable segment of the population, particularly in developing countries. Other diseases transmitted by animals will increase. In Mauritius, for example, there is a considerable increase in cases of dengue fever due to the introduction of mosquitoes that spread the disease and the virus itself. He points out that Mauritius is at risk of suffering health problems due to global warming due to flooding. “When there are heavy downpours, there is an accumulation of water and an increase in the number of mosquitoes that can spread. Which is one of the major problems of climate change from a health point of view,” he says.

Dr Shameem Jaumdally adds that the country is also experiencing more problems than in previous years. With leptospirosis, he points out, rodents emerge from their dens or from sewers and other sewer systems to get closer to homes and transmit the diseases of which they are vectors. The virologist believes that the dengue problem will worsen, because the quantity of infected mosquitoes will increase. “An infected mosquito can, during its life cycle, contaminate 500 other mosquitoes through egg laying, and the larvae that become mosquitoes will continue to spread the disease. Regardless of the strategies put in place to control the tiger mosquito, the vector of dengue fever, the disease will increase despite everything,” he says.

Increase in dengue cases

He explains that this is what happened on Reunion Island, which has the same climate as Mauritius and an almost similar organization of life, with similar vegetation. “We estimate that Mauritius will experience the same situation with an increase in the number of dengue cases and deaths,” he says. What can be controlled is how quickly the disease can spread, he says.

Dr Jaumdally believes that more research and action are needed to curb the epidemic. It recommends targeted actions for the deployment of logistics and control means, depending on the rainfall and the time necessary for the increase in mosquito density. There is also a need for geographic targeting, which can only be achieved through appropriate research. The virologist also predicts an increase in gastrointestinal infections which may be associated with flooding. Viruses will arise when there is a risk of mixing wastewater and drinking water.

Waste management

The virologist also mentions the problem of microplastics which can cause non-communicable diseases. He also criticizes waste management, another poor relation of the Budget. The garbage ends up at the Mare Chicose landfill, having a direct effect on the people living nearby. Waste treatment needs to be better planned, and emphasis should be placed on recycling and banning the use of single-use plastic. “It is not just about cleaning and beautifying the island, as mentioned in the Budget, but about putting in place a plan for garbage management. In Singapore, energy is produced from incinerated waste. The smoke produced is not released into nature, but reused for other purposes,” adds our interlocutor.

Fruit and vegetable production down

The production of fruits and vegetables has decreased, the virologist explains. Mosquito control measures have not only eliminated these insects, but also others, such as bees, which are essential for pollination. With climate change also affecting the bee population, we will find ourselves in a situation where people will consume less healthy foods like locally produced fruits and vegetables, in favor of more expensive imported products. Which has an indirect effect on people's health, according to Dr Jaumdally.

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