Conference Report

For the first time in Kenya, Health and Environment actors and stakeholders converged together to interrogate the intersecting issues between health, environment and climate change. The two-day “Health, Environment and Climate Change Conference” was held in Nairobi on 2-3 December 2019. The conference  presentations and discussions are summarised by following key messages:

Scientific evidence on occurrence of air and water pollution, and contamination of soil and food reserves 

In Kenya efforts to evaluate the occurrence and the link between human health and environmental pollution and impacts of climate change have accelerated in recent years. This evidence has been 
assembled by researchers from diverse institutions in the health and environment sectors. The evidence was shared in the conference and comprised of empirical studies on air pollution, Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), pollution of surface water resources and climate change effects on the transmission of communicable diseases. 

To gather this evidence, researchers have established collaborations with meteorological and medical personnel, the media, public health workers as well as ‘citizen scientists’. The partnerships have especially facilitated access to disease and climate data from meteorological and medical repositories and also supported collection of new data in the field as well as dissemination of research findings. The conference dedicated a session to showcase equipment and technologies such the use of sensors in air quality studies. These have enabled cost-effectiveness in gathering data and information especially given the spatial extent, temporal restrictions and accuracy levels imposed by some of the research studies. A demonstration of emerging modelling tools was also made. This include the Long-range Energy Alternative Planning – Integrated Benefit Calculator (LEAP-IBC), the HDM-4 software etc., which integrate varied data sets to generate emissions, climate and health scenarios to support decision making. 

Prevalence and burden of disease as a result of environmental pollution and impacts climate of change

The current research has underscored the rising scale of air, water and soil pollution from diverse sources and accentuated the association between the prevalence of communicable and non-communicable diseases and the increasing health burden as a result of environmental pollution. Presentations made during the conference also revealed how the impacts of climate change such as flooding interact with a host of localized health risks, including infectious vector-borne diseases such as malaria, and water pollutant-based diseases such as typhoid and cholera. Climate change also creates favourable condition for reproduction of pathogens such as fungi that damage food and cause infections to humans.