Sunday, July 21, 2024

Climate change linked to over 4% of newborn deaths worldwide

Recent research has highlighted a concerning link between climate change and newborn mortality rates, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). According to a study spanning 29 LMICs across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, climate-driven temperature extremes contributed to more than four percent of newborn deaths between 2001 and 2019.

The study, published in *Nature Communications* and conducted by an international team including researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany, revealed that approximately 1.5 percent of annual newborn deaths were attributable to extreme heat, while nearly three percent were linked to extreme cold.

Over the 19-year period, climate change was implicated in approximately 32 percent of heat-related deaths among newborns, totaling more than 175,000 fatalities. Conversely, it was found to reduce the risk of cold-related newborn deaths by over 30 percent, preventing an estimated 457,000 deaths.

The research noted a significant rise in average temperatures across the studied countries, increasing by 0.9 degrees Celsius during the period under review, directly attributable to climate change. Sub-Saharan African nations experienced the most pronounced impacts, particularly in relation to deaths caused by extreme temperatures in newborns.

Countries with the highest overall rates of newborn deaths included Pakistan, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria, where temperature-related mortality rates exceeded 160 deaths per 100,000 live births. Data drawn from nationally-representative surveys highlighted the severity of the issue, encompassing records from over 40,000 newborn deaths.

Newborn infants are particularly vulnerable to temperature extremes due to their immature regulatory systems and high metabolic rates. This vulnerability is exacerbated by limited sweating capacity, making heat dissipation challenging.

According to previous estimates cited in the study, newborn deaths accounted for nearly half of all deaths in children under five years of age in 2019, totaling 2.4 million deaths globally. Over 90 percent of these deaths occurred in LMICs, predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The findings underscore the urgent need for targeted interventions to mitigate the effects of climate change on newborn health, particularly in regions where vulnerabilities are most acute. Efforts to enhance healthcare infrastructure and adaptive capacities are critical in safeguarding the lives of the most vulnerable populations against the growing threat of climate-driven health impacts.

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