Emerging climate change-related public health challenges in Africa: A case study of the heat-health vulnerability of informal settlement residents in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Author: Lorena Pasquini, Christie Godsmark, Lisa van Aardenne, Jessica Lee, Christopher Jack

Year: 2020

Published in:

Science of The Total Environment 747:141355

Heat has the potential to become one of the most significant public health impacts of climate change in the coming decades. Increases in temperature have been linked to both increasing mortality and morbidity. Cities have been recognized as areas of particular vulnerability to heat’s impacts on health, and marginalized groups, such as the poor, appear to have higher heat-related morbidity and mortality. Little research has examined the heat vulnerability of urban informal settlements residents in Africa, even though surface temperatures across Africa are projected to increase at a rate faster than the global average. This paper addresses this knowledge gap through a mixed-methods analysis of the heat-health vulnerability of informal settlement residents in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The heat exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity of informal settlement residents were assessed through a combination of climate analyses, semi-structured interviews with local government actors and informal settlement residents, unstructured interviews with health sector respondents, a health impacts literature review, and a stakeholder engagement workshop. The results suggest that increasing temperatures due to climate change will likely be a significant risk to human health in Dar es Salaam, even though the city does not reach extreme temperature conditions, because informal settlement residents have high exposure, high sensitivity and low adaptive capacity to heat, and because the heat-health relationship is currently an under-prioritized policy issue. While numerous urban planning approaches can play a key role in increasing the resilience of citizens to heat, Dar es Salaam’s past and current growth and development patterns greatly complicate the implementation and enforcement of such approaches. For African cities, the findings highlight an urgent need for more research on the vulnerability and resilience of residents to heat-health impacts, because many African cities are likely to present similar characteristics to those in Dar es Salaam that increase resident’s vulnerability.