Confronting the effects of climate change on human health

Developing innovative treatments for climate-sensitive diseases while reducing our carbon footprint

Confronting the effects of climate change on human health

Developing innovative treatments for climate-sensitive diseases while reducing our carbon footprint

The climate crisis is the biggest health threat humanity has ever faced. The World Health Organization predicts an estimated 250,000 additional deaths per year from heat stress, malnutrition, dengue, malaria, and other vector-borne diseases between 2030 and 2050.

Climate change has a disproportionate impact on the poorest and most vulnerable communities, exacerbating poverty, displacement, and lack of access to food and clean water. Neglected diseases, including leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness, will spread to new areas, affecting low- and middle-income countries the most.

There is a pressing need to prioritize research and development for medicines, vaccines, and diagnostics for climate-sensitive diseases. However, the current medical and pharmaceutical ecosystem focuses on more profitable markets, resulting in inequitable development of and access to these life-saving prevention and treatment tools.

What we are doing

Our response to the current and future treatment needs of the world’s most vulnerable populations must consider the evolving impact of climate change. We need to take into account changing patterns of disease transmission and prevalence. We also need to reduce the carbon footprint of our own operations, and work with our partners to reduce the environmental impact of developing and manufacturing medicines.

DNDi has developed a four-pronged roadmap on health, climate, and the environment, committing to address these cross-cutting priorities in our 2021-2028 Strategic Plan.

1. Develop treatments for climate-sensitive diseases

Populations around the world are facing changing and growing burdens of neglected and infectious diseases linked to climate change. Innovating for new tools to prevent and treat climate-sensitive diseases must be considered a necessary part of supporting communities impacted by neglected tropical diseases to adapt to changing climates.

For many years we have had a robust R&D portfolio focused on climate-sensitive, vector-borne diseases, including leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness, and Chagas disease. In 2021, we added dengue to our portfolio. Dengue is a highly climate-sensitive disease for which there is no specific treatment available.

2. Increase sustainable R&D and manufacturing

DNDi has begun working with partners to explore more sustainable manufacturing processes that lower waste and the use or generation of hazardous substances, with the goal of reducing the negative impact of drug discovery, development, and production on human health and the environment.

3. Advocate for innovation for neglected patients in the climate change response

The global biomedical innovation ecosystem fails to invest in the development of essential medical tools for diseases that primarily affect poor and marginalized people living in low- and middle-income countries. These are the same communities being disproportionately impacted by climate change.

DNDi continues to call for investments and policies for climate adaptation, notably through our submission to the first Global Stocktake, that include medical innovation for people affected or threatened by climate-sensitive, vector-borne diseases, wherever they live.

4. Reduce our carbon emissions and environmental footprint

DNDi is committed to halving our greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and forging new collaborations to strengthen collective impact. We partnered with the Climate Action Accelerator to assess our 2019 baseline emissions and developed a Climate and Environmental Roadmap that will cut DNDi’s global carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. The roadmap outlines the steps we need to take to reduce the emissions we control, from our offices and travel, and the emissions we do not directly control, including from outsourced R&D and treatment access activities.