Gender, climate change and health

WHO
2014

Summary

How do climate change, gender and health relate? This report shows how gender norms, attitudes and behaviours affect climate-related health risks and climate change adaptation and mitigation measures. It aims to provide a framework to strengthen World Health Organization (WHO) support to member states in developing health risk assessments and climate policy interventions that are beneficial to both women and men.

Key findings include:

  • Gender differences are visible in vulnerability to short and longer-term effects of climate-related hazards. For example, women are more likely to die during natural disasters than men, including those at a younger age, and women and girls disproportionately suffer the health consequences of droughts (nutritional deficiencies and increased burdens travelling further for water collection).
  • Although men are found to consume more energy than women, however as women are typically responsible for most household consumer decisions, they are often experience the benefits of cleaner interventions, for example.
  • Loss of biodiversity can increase insecurity, challenging the nutritional and health status and livelihoods of women and their communities. Many rural women depend on non-timber forest products for income, traditional medicinal use, nutritional supplements (e.g. periods of food shortage), and as seed banks for alternative crop varieties.
  • Evidence shows that women have lower access to information on weather alerts and cropping patterns, affecting their capacity to respond to climate variability. Further, when confronted with long-term weather shifts, men have greater preference to migrate, while women prefer wage labour.
  • Gender analysis can increase effectiveness of climate change measures. Many disaster-response programmes now recognise the (often informal) contribution of women to DRR as change agents and have placed particular emphasis on engaging women.
  • Rising rates of female-headed households in urban/peri-urban areas results in a feminisation of urban poverty, where managing daily burdens independently (e.g. waste management, fuel, water and sanitation) make them particularly vulnerable to natural disasters.
  • Approaches to adaptation have evolved and broadened to be more development-oriented, addressing underlying causes of vulnerability (poverty, lack of empowerment and/or access to services) in order to build resilience to climate hazards by addressing underlying causes of vulnerability.
  • Gender-sensitive research is needed to better understand health implications of climate change and climate policies. This includes the collection, analysis and reporting of sex-disaggregated data.

A summary table of policy recommendations is provided showing possible gender impacts of climate change, and gender adaptive strategies that also safeguard health, especially of women. Understanding target groups is central to designing and implementing policy instruments; women and men differ regarding their use of energy and emission profiles. Adaptation strategies need to consider gender differences in capacities, power, social resilience, vulnerabilities and resources, which can enable or constrain ability to adapt. Women’s roles in contributing to climate change action is often undervalued, greater consideration of how to integrate them into adaption strategies is necessary to address gender-related issues.

Source

WHO. (2014). Gender, health and climate change. Geneva: World Health Organisation.