Posted by Bukola Daike on March 31, 2021 at 9:51 am
Discussions of sexual and reproductive health and rights do not necessarily inspire those of climate change. Likewise, SRHR does not spring to mind when climate change is being discussed. But the two are inextricably linked. Climate change is one of the biggest threats faced by nations across the world today and like is the case with most humanitarian crises, SRHR is an important factor that should not be dismissed.
To begin with, climate disasters and extreme weather events, such as floods, tsunamis and hurricanes etc. have a detrimental effect on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls across the world. In emergencies such as these, healthcare services and clinics have to shut down and are not available as a result of power outages, significant destruction of the infrastructure and death of medical personnel. As a result, there is significantly reduced access to emergency contraception, STI treatments and PEP to reduce HIV infections. This can lead to unwanted pregnancies, the spreading of preventable diseases and even death.
Water scarcity can occur as a result of droughts, pollution and other environmental factors. According to the IPCC, around 75-250 million people in Africa are vulnerable to climate change induced water stress. Women, particularly poor women from minority ethnic communities and their families are the most vulnerable. Lack of access to fresh water can result in the consumption of water with a high salinity. This can lead to hypertension during pregnancy which has negative consequences for maternal and fetal health. Additionally, during water shortages, at school and at home young women face difficulty accessing water which has a detrimental effect on their menstrual hygiene.
Similarly, food insecurity can occur as a result of land degradation, natural disasters and species extinction. Food scarcity can lead to sexual assault and rape when those who control food sources demand sexual favours from women in return for food. Food scarcity can also exacerbate existing conflicts and even lead to resource wars. Nearly half of all intrastate conflicts within the last half century can be traced to resource scarcity. Climate change induced conflict like all other types of conflict has a detrimental effect on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women. An increase in SGBV for example is just one of many negative effects.
These are just a few examples of the ways in which climate change and SRHR are linked. There is no doubt that SRHR concerns need to be incorporated into adaptation and mitigation efforts in order for states and organisations alike to provide a comprehensive response to climate change.
For more information on the links between climate change and SRHR click the links below:
Check out the Share-Net NL Climate Change/SRHR CoP