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Current Affairs

Climate extremes harming unborn babies in Amazon

Date: 03 March 2021 Tags: Climate Change

Issue

A new study links extreme rains in Brazil's Amazon region to low birth weights. This has indicated long-term health impacts of weather extremes connected to climate change.

 

Details

  • Exceptionally heavy rain and floods during pregnancy were linked to lower birth weight and premature births in Brazil's northern Amazonas state.

  • Researchers compared nearly 300,000 births over 11 years with local weather data and found babies born after extreme rainfall were more likely to have low birth weights, which is linked to worse educational, health and even income attainment as adults.

Observations

  • Even non-extreme intense rainfall was linked to a 40% higher chance of a child being low birth-weight.

  • Heavy rains and flooding could cause increases in infectious diseases like malaria, shortages of food and mental health issues in pregnant women, leading to lower birth weights.

  • Researchers have termed this an example of climate injustice, because these mothers and these communities are very, very far from deforestation frontiers in the Amazon.

  • They have also said that these communities have contributed very little to climate change but are being hit first and worst.

  • Severe flooding on the Amazon river is five times more common than just a few decades ago. This has intensified effects on indigenous communities.

  • Local people have changed their lifestyles to deal with climate change, but that the extent of the extreme river levels and rainfalls has basically exceeded their adaptive capacities.

 

Measures

  • Long-term political neglect of provincial Amazonia and uneven development in Brazil needs to be addressed to tackle the "double burden" of climate change and health inequalities.

  • It said policy interventions should include antenatal health coverage and transport for rural teenagers to finish high school, as well as improved early warning systems for floods.