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Climate and Health in Kenya

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About the Collection

The Open Planet library features a diverse collection of footage exploring the connection between our planet’s changing climate and the health and wellbeing of people, to inspire more stories to be told of the climate-driven health crisis.

The filming of this collection in Kenya was supported by the Wellcome Trust. It includes powerful visuals that demonstrate climate impacts and the incredible stories of how communities and organisations are responding to the climate crisis at a local level.

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Create and share your own story using Open Planet, to help raise awareness of the links between climate change and human health.

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How climate change affects human health

Without a stable climate, the foundations of our health and wellbeing are threatened. As the climate changes, the availability and abundance of resources that our health is dependent on, like fresh water and healthy food, are put at risk. Combined with the impact of extreme weather such as heatwaves, droughts and flooding, as well as the effects of fossil fuel emissions and pollution worsening the quality of the air we breathe, health problems are increasing for people all over the world.

In Kenya, the impacts of the climate crisis are not a future threat – they are already shaping the lives and livelihoods of people across the country. In recent decades, a rapid rise in temperature has led to a shift in seasonal weather patterns, with more extreme and unpredictable weather events causing major problems for the health and wellbeing of local people.

Climate change is particularly devastating for vulnerable communities, including the more than 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa living in informal settlements, also known as slums. One of the largest of these is Kibera, in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, where communities are already feeling the impacts of climate change.

Climate impacts in Kibera

Kibera is home to around 250,000 people. Its low-lying location and close proximity to local rivers, teamed with a lack of infrastructure to support basic human needs, means that people living in Kibera are particularly exposed to the impacts of the climate crisis.

  • Climate change is driving temperature shifts which create unpredictable, extreme weather.
  • Droughts are becoming longer and more severe. This is contributing to an increase in the degradation of the land surrounding Kibera, resulting in failed crops and reduced vegetation cover.
  • Extreme rainfall is also increasing in frequency and intensity, which cannot be absorbed by the hard exposed ground following drought periods, causing widespread flooding.
  • Unpredictable cycles of extreme drought and rainfall are disrupting crop cycles and food supplies, which locals depend on.
  • Flooding in Kibera is made worse by the lack of formal drainage infrastructure, and its location on the low-lying floodplains of the Ngong River, upstream of the Nairobi Dam.
  • Lack of waste infrastructure means that rivers and drainage channels are often blocked by large volumes of waste, which not only makes flooding worse, but also contaminates the water and spreads disease.
  • The fast-moving flood waters also increase the risk of washing away the homes closest to the river, often with families still inside.

To help increase community resilience and mitigate the impacts of climate change on people’s health, urgent action is needed on both a regional and international scale. In Kibera and other areas of Kenya, individuals and local organisations are responding to the climate crisis with creative solutions and optimism.

Weather Mtaani community action

Weather Mtaani is a group of local leaders in Kibera who have come together to protect their communities from extreme weather events. They do this by translating weather forecasts to make the information accessible and easy to understand for local people in Kibera, helping them to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of extreme weather.

They also organise clean-ups of waste to help prevent the contamination of water and the spread of disease during flooding, and work with city authorities to help people living in informal settlements adapt to extreme weather. Additionally, they provide education for communities, raising awareness of the connections between extreme flooding and human health, and the preventative actions that can help save lives.

While community-led climate initiatives are driving positive change, sustained action on a greater scale is needed to protect people and nature from the intensifying impacts of climate change. This includes bolder investment from local governments and the international community to build infrastructure that can support communities and withstand increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather events.