Ghana’s physical location renders the country especially vulnerable to climate change impacts on the human population. Expected impacts, as identified in the Initial National Communication , focus on across three resource sectors: water, coastal, and agricultural.
Future climate change scenarios have indicated that both maximum and minimum temperatures will increase across all agro-climatic zones of Ghana, with the highest increases in the Sudan Savannah Zone. This average maximum temperature increase is projected to be around 3oC in the Sudan Savannah Zone and 2.5oC in all other agro-climatic zones by the year 2020.
Historically, Ghana has experienced a rising temperature of approximately 1oC over the previous 30 year period and a resultant 20% reduction in rainfall, and 30% reduction in surface water runoff and discharges. With continued projected warming these runoff amounts could decrease by 15-20% for the year 2020 and 30-40% for the year 2050, reductions with serious implications for groundwater recharge, hydropower generation, and other national ecosystems services of the water cycle.
Mean annual rainfall is projected by 2100 to have decreased by 170 mm in the Sudan Savannah Zone, 74 mm in the Guinea Savannah Zone and 99 mm in the Semi-Deciduous Rainforest Zone, with some rainfall increase in the High Rainforest Zone. About 7% of land area in Ghana is categorized as coastal zone, and is home to 25% of the population who live in and around the main urban centres of Accra-Tema, Sekondi-Takoradi, and Cape Coast. Significant sea-level rise by the year 2020 is expected to inundate two-thirds of the total coastal land area, leading to a potential loss of more than 1000 km2 of land area.
These long-term changes to climatic variables impact human health by mostly acting as a “stress-multiplier” to existing climate-sensitive burdens of disease. The projected reduction in available irrigation water, symptomatic of reduced rainfall and increased demand in warming regions, will directly affect already vulnerable vector-disease habitats, food-crop production, and quantities of safe water for drinking and washing.
Potentially very vulnerable populations are those living in Ghana’s very dry, wedge like strip of land extending east 40 km from Sekondi-Takoradi. Expected sea-level rise will not only likely require movement of coastal populations and infrastructure due to land-loss, but will also increase the salinity of groundwater sources, affect fishing industries, and decrease resiliency to flooding and storm damage. With such impacts, the potential for exacerbating existing Ghana disease burdens of malaria, diarrhoeal illness, meningitis, respiratory diseases, and malnutrition, is very large.
Current interventions to support the health sector do not take the risks of climate change into account. To date, Ghana’s approach to climate change in relation with human health vulnerability has been a reactive, and is characterised by an absence of a well-defined strategic and policy intervention plan for both the medium and long-term. Besides financing shortages, the absence of a policy framework for addressing climate change related health risks, absence of technical and institutional capacities at local and national levels makes the need for corrective interventions even more urgent. Current control programs for malaria, diarrheal diseases, and meningococcal meningitis are also of limited value, as evident by the high disease burdens despite the efforts to manage such health risks. While the Roll Back Malaria programme, Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI), and other programs have recently commenced implementation to help reduce morbidity and mortality, these programs do not integrate the implications of climate change, including variability, on disease control activities.
The project will seek to lift these barriers to counter the increased probability of health risks from climate change. This will entail institutional strengthening, capacity building, and awareness raising under a programmatic approach to climate change sensitive health risk management. Three critical components underpin this initiative:
- Strengthening technical capacities to manage climate change-related health risks;
- Climate change health risk mainstreamed into decision-making at local and national health policy levels, and
- Information management and effective dissemination of climate change health risk knowledge. Demonstration activities will also be implemented in selected pilot areas identified to be at particularly high health related risks due to climate change.
The project will generate adaptation benefits by building local and institutional capacity to manage adverse climate change impacts on human health, especially among vulnerable sub-groups such as women and children. The results of the project will be relevant to decision-makers in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa and in regions of the world where climate sensitive diseases such as malaria, diarrhoeal diseases, and meningococcal meningitis are prevalent. It will complement the governments’ present initiatives such as the Roll Back Malaria programme, Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI).
The project will address long term adaptation to climate change needs by supporting the development of local capacities and institutions to explicitly factor in climate change risks on key disease burdens and various national level plans and programmes that are designed to manage their expected spread and impact on development. As this project is closely aligned with national development priorities, this will not require large-scale diversion of development resources. With SCCF support, this project will result in a measurable increase in the adaptive capacity of Ghana to reduce current and climate change-attributed increases in malaria, diarrheal diseases, and meningococcal meningitis. The project will help to mobilize various national stakeholders to learn, develop, and implement comprehensive strategies and cost-effective adaptation measures that aim to build community resilience to climate change impacts. The implementation of the demonstration projects and development of early warning systems (with partners such as Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, WHO, WMO and others) will serve as a focus for capacity building and as a learning opportunity to guide further adaptation interventions in health and other sectors.