Health impacts of climate change in the Philippines
Updated: Jun 29
I work in an international team with staff based all over the globe. One of the people I work closest with is based in the Philippines, specifically Manila. When we dialled in for our morning meeting one morning, we were chatting while we waited for everyone to join the meeting. He said with a laugh that he hadn't done much the night before, after work. He clocks off around 3pm local time, and he said after that he'd just gone to bed and slept right through until his alarm in the morning.
He went on to say this was somewhat of a regular occurrence, and that many people he knew experienced feeling unwell due to the weather. "The affect of climate change is really obvious here," he said. I like to keep pretty informed when it comes to climate change, and I know in theory that it will impact poorer places and tropical climates first and most significantly. But I hadn't been faced with this kind of primary evidence. And I guess I was imagining climate change to sink an island, making residents homeless. My point is, I definitely hadn't considered this.
A article published in HuffPost back in 2017 warned Filipinos that climate change wouldn't only mean more typhoons and tsunamis (as if they weren't terrifying enough), but is also likely to impact their health.
“What we have found in the recent past is that climate change exacerbates the conditions that make it more favourable for diseases to set in. For example, in dengue, the vectors can multiply faster and become fiercer. Even if you have a lot of mosquitoes, if there is no source of infection, there will be very few cases.”
Dr. Fely Marilyn Lorenzo of the Commission on Higher Education
Dengue, a disease similar to a serious flu, is passed by infected mosquitos. It can be critical, and can develop into a serious health risk if a person contracts it twice. In some cases, it can cause serious bleeding and shock, and it can be life threatening. Dengue cases in the Philippines saw a 64.8% rise between 2014 and 2015, then in 2019, after the HuffPost article was published, several countries in South East Asia experienced a dengue fever epidemic (didn't hear about that one in the news, did you?). the Department of Health officially attributed the rise in cases to climate change.
Heat and pollution-related illness
The World Health Organsiation has found that heat- and pollution- related illness resulting in death among older residents will spike significantly in the Philippines if climate change continues at the same rate. Heat-related deaths will affect the older population, however air pollution will affect the entire country, and rates in Philippines cities are already far above the WHO guidelines. In 2012, 32% of total deaths can be attributed to air pollution.
Experts have attributed many health issues and deaths to climate change in the Philippines, and anecdotal evidence, while not as solid, may be likely to impact the wider public more significantly. Take a closer look at the cited sources to read more.
Graphs from World Health Organisation report, access here.
Excerpts and quotes from HuffPost, read here.