Vulnerability to the health effects of climate variability in rural southwestern Uganda
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- Labbé, J., Ford, J.D., Berrang-Ford, L. et al. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change (2016) 21: 931. doi:10.1007/s11027-015-9635-2
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Vulnerability to the health impacts of climate change will be shaped by the existing burden of ill- health and is expected to be highest in poor and socio-economically marginalized populations. Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, is considered a highly vulnerable region. This paper analyses the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of rural Bakiga communities in southwestern Uganda to climate-sensitive health risks. The objectives were threefold: i) identify key climate-sensitive, community-identified health priorities; ii) describe and characterize determinants of sensitivity to these health priorities at the individual, community and regional levels; and iii) assess the adaptive capacity of Bakiga. Data collection employed a combination of individual and key informant interviews, biographies, future storylines, and Photovoice. Three key health risks were identified by the study communities (malaria, food insecurity, and gastrointestinal illnesses) – all affected by local climatic and environmental conditions, livelihoods, land use changes, and socio-economic conditions. Adaptation within these communities is dependent on their capacity to reduce sensitivities to identified health challenges among the potential of increasing exposures. Crop diversification, reducing deforestation, expanding of livestock rearing, transfer of traditional knowledge, and access to affordable health services are among potential strategies identified. We demonstrate significant existing vulnerabilities to present day climate-related health risks and highlight the importance of non-climatic processes and local conditions in creating sensitivity to health risks. Our place-based understanding is useful to inform interventions or policies aimed to reduce exposure and sensitivity and support adaptive capacity as the conditions these communities face are consistent with many other sub-Saharan African countries.