Giving Compass’ Take:
• Chandler Green and Rachel Smidt interviewed Dr. María Neira, Director Department of Environment, Climate Change, and Health at the World Health Organization (WHO), about the state of health issues in Australia due to the bushfires.
• What is the local government doing to understand and address the health impacts of climate change? Are donors incorporating health needs into disaster giving?
• Read this guide to aid disaster relief in Australia.
Slovenian tennis player, Dalila Jakupovic, was about to serve during the first round qualifying match of the Australian Open, when she fell to her knees in a coughing fit. The air quality in Melbourne, where the tennis tournament is held, was deemed “moderate to hazardous,” because of smoke from bushfires that have burned 16 million acres in Australia — an area about the size of West Virginia. She later had to withdraw from the match, saying, “I just couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t walk so I just went down (onto the floor) because I couldn’t stand up straight.”
Dalila was one of many professional tennis players impacted by the conditions at the Australian Open — and she’s also one of the millions of people who have experienced health effects from the bushfires. In Australia’s capital, Canberra, the air quality reached the worst levels of anywhere in the world on January 2nd because of the smoke. Further, a new survey from Australian Institute found that 35% of those surveyed in New South Wales said they had suffered breathing or respiratory problems as a result.
As wildfires, like the bushfires in Australia, are projected to become more frequent and intense in a warming climate, it’s important to understand — and prepare for — the health consequences.
We interviewed Dr. María Neira, Director Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health at the World Health Organization (WHO), to learn about the connections among health, wildfires, and climate change. Dr. Neira is a medical doctor by training, whose work at WHO includes air pollution. She and her department cover a variety of health and climate intersections, from synthesizing evidence and knowledge to working with partners and identifying solutions.
Read the full article about Australian bushfires impact on health by Chandler Green and Rachel Smidt at United Nations Foundation.
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