It is hard to believe that in a few short months, it will be a year since we were first introduced to COVID-19. What started as a strange acronym for us all, is now a part of our everyday lives as we take measures to keep ourselves and others safe.
From the early days of the pandemic, we can recall confusing messages and strained health systems. In many countries, clinics and hospitals were quickly overwhelmed, unprepared for the impact of the virus – lacking in capacity to treat the influx of patients, lacking even in basic personal protective equipment.
Simultaneously, health systems have had to continue to cope with other pressing health issues, including the increasing health-related impacts of climate change.
Consider floods, such as the ones that struck Nepal in July, which expose communities to water and vector borne diseases (for example bacterial diseases, diarrheal disease, Hepatitis A and E, cholera, malaria, and dengue).
Or powerful storms, such as the cyclone that hit Fiji and Vanuatu in April, which can cause immediate physical harm but also facilitate the spread of diseases associated with crowding (such as COVID-19, measles, meningitis, and acute respiratory infections), as well as result in longer-term distress related to loss.
Or the health implications of slow-onset climate change impacts, for example the contamination of freshwater sources due to sea level rise and flooding in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.