Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change (CBA18): A climate-resilient future starts with healthy communities

May 10, 2024, Arusha, Tanzania – The 18th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change (CBA18) took place from 6 May to 9 May 2024 in Arusha, Tanzania. In To increase co-creation and collaboration between climate and health actors, the Global Fund convened representatives of civil-society organizations and impacted communities working on HIV, TB, Malaria, health and climate response from various regions of Africa to the Conference.

Of the three diseases at the core of the Global Fund’s mission, malaria is the most affected by climate change. Eighty-seven percent of the global malaria burden and Global Fund resources are focused in the same 50 most vulnerable countries. Climate change, in addition to drug- and insecticide-resistance and conflict, poses an urgent threat to malaria control and elimination efforts. Climate change also jeopardizes the fight against HIV and TB. Its impact on food security, as well as extreme weather events, are driving population displacement, which increases communities’ vulnerability to disease. Floods, cyclones and other climate disasters also interrupt access to healthcare. 

Climate change presents a profound threat to the reversal of gains and achievements of the Global Fund’s partnership in climate-impacted countries and communities. Impacted and vulnerable communities and people are at the center of the Global Fund strategy. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have lowest per capita greenhouse gas emissions but have many of the most climate-vulnerable countries.

CBA18 brings together community of practitioners, grassroots representatives, local and national government planners, policymakers and donors working at all levels and scales to reimagine solutions that enable transformative outcomes, through the agency of communities driving climate action. CBA is a space for the climate adaptation community to share learning on community-based and locally led adaptation approaches, and to explore how to put the principles for locally led adaptation (LLA) into practice, recognizing the complexities, innovations and challenges that must be overcome. The Global Fund and its community and civil society partners- ALMA, EANNASO, HEPS Uganda, ITPC, Lensational, RAME and Speak Up Africa co-created two sessions at the conference focused on “Resilient Communities, Health Futures” and “Community engagement and advocacy in climate-health decision-making spaces”.

Climate change is increasing existing social and economic vulnerabilities, including amongst key, vulnerable and underserved populations affected by HIV, Tuberculosis or malaria, with most significant impacts occurring in Africa, Asia and parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.

By 2030s, models indicate that potentially an additional 50-62 million people will be at increased risk for endemic malaria transmission, and 37-48 million people at risk for seasonal transmission, in Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa.

The African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) is working to keep the issues of climate change and health, including malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), high on the agenda of the Heads of States and Governments of Africa, the quarterly report being a good example and we are working to provide support for countries to integrate climate change and health indicators to the scorecard tools of accountability, advocacy and action.

Aloyce Urassa, Public Health Scientist and Chairperson of the ALMA Youth Advisory Council.

Climate inequities disproportionately affect low-income and marginalized communities, worsening the existing inequalities in political power, policy, practice, and funding that also contribute to health disparities. Climate change impacts people and communities ability to access health services differently depending on a wide range of climate-related and societal factors including  gender and age, and this is why “Support for the adaptation of communities-led solutions to climate change must focus on raising their awareness in order for them to find tailored and context-specific solutions.” Simon Kaboré, Regional Executive Director of RAME.

Incorporating gender considerations into climate change and disaster risk reduction projects can help ensure the projects’ effectiveness and improve women’s, and their families’, resilience to climate change. By addressing gender, adaptation, and mitigation together, we can come up with approaches on the ground that have multiple development benefits. Women are already more vulnerable to undernutrition, health vulnerabilities and have less access to medical services than men; climate change can exacerbate this situation. Changing temperatures alter vectors for diseases like malaria, higher sea-surface temperatures are correlated with cholera epidemics, and more frequent droughts and floods will worsen sanitation and hygiene. Since 2021, Speak Up Africa, an advocacy and strategic communications organization, is working with the Global Fund on the Voix EssentiELLES initiative, a project strengthening women and girls’ capacity, in all of their diversity, by meaningfully engaging them in decision-making processes and spaces that influence health policies and programs.

This conference is a perfect opportunity for Speak Up Arica and our Voix EssentiELLES initiative to delve into the climate world and actors and understand the challenges and adaptation mechanisms or programs in place that are critical for climate resilience. It is even more essential for us to understand community-led gender-sensitive solutions implemented by our climate counterparts and think about how to best co-create climate health resilient gender considerations in Africa. I was delighted to attend sessions like the « Turning the tide:  how to enable gender and locally led adaptation action for good » which was particularly insightful.

Maelle Ba, Senior Communications Manager at Speak Up Africa and co-Chair of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria Strategic Communications Partner Committee.

To date, climate and health risks are often viewed in silos in decision making. This is why, as part of the Conference, Lensational, a non-profit social enterprise, with the mission of equipping women from underrepresented groups and communities with cameras and photography training so they can express themselves and represent themselves with dignity, Speak Up Africa and the Global Fund, organized a session on « Community engagement and advocacy in climate-health decision-making spaces » to take stock of best practices and learnings in advancing community engagement and advocacy in health and climate adaptation policy, programming and financing. The interactive session further explored approaches that have worked in strengthening capacities and leadership to improve advocacy and meaningful engagement of communities most impacted by climate change.

With a focus on acquiring new skills, sharing experiences and connecting with peers, the CBA18 conference offers participants four days of discussion, debate, peer-to-peer ‘skill-shares’ and knowledge exchange, through an innovative, dynamic and interactive space, enabling participants to promote community-led climate action.

It is only through integration, adaptation and innovation that we will be able to address the climate crisis and ensure healthy futures for all. This Conference has provided a platform, even within the Global Fund partnership, to hold crucial conversations on how to best integrate climate resilience into community systems. Our amazing partners are coming up with powerful and impactful solutions and enabling us to increase knowledge translations.

Seonmi Choi, Senior Advisor- Climate Change and Environment at the Global Fund

As the impacts of climate change cause ripples through communities worldwide, scaled-up efforts that support those most impacted by the climate crisis are urgently needed. Breaking down the silos between climate and health is imperative for effective decision-making, and community voices on adaptation are key in understanding how climate and health are interlinked, which will eventually allow for development of holistic strategies that address both climate resilience and health equity.