The UAE will soon put in place an early warning system for sand and dust storms (SDS) to alert residents with respiratory conditions, and mitigate the impact on health and environment.

The system is also in line with the country’s climate adaptation programme with people-centred approach, Dr. Nada Al Marzouqi, director of the Department of Public Health and Prevention at Ministry of Health and Prevention, told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, on the sidelines of the ongoing COP28 at Expo City Dubai.

Dr. Al Marzouqi noted the impact-based SDS warning will help individuals with pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases to immediately take preventive action once a warning has been received.

Spike in respiratory problems

She added the UAE has one of the lowest cases of respiratory diseases in the region because of its strong medical system but a spike in cases has been recorded recently.

“That is why we are collaborating with our health partners, as well as the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) and National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority to put an SDS early warning system in the near future,” Dr. Al Marzouqi said.

“Exposure to dust can trigger an acute attack for those with asthma and can also worsen the condition of those with chronic obstructive pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases. But because of the heads up we can give them with the SDS early warning, they can take preventive measures or prophylaxis,” she added.

Human face of climate change

Recognising sand and dust storms as issues of international concern, Dr. Al Marzouqi also underscored the connection between health and climate change. She noted “the rising global temperatures has not only resulted in frequent occurrences of heatwaves, wildfires, floods, tropical storms and hurricanes, but has also increasingly impacted the health and wellbeing of our communities across the world.”

“Health is the human face of climate change,” she underscored, noting: “We cannot talk about climate change without putting health at the centre of discussions.”

Building climate-resilient health system

For this, she praised COP28 Presidency and the World Health Organisation for the ‘COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health’ that was signed by 123 countries on December 2, aimed at “building more climate-resilient health systems.”

It will also boost collaboration to reduce carbon emissions and increase finance for climate and health solutions. A set of new finance commitments on climate and health was announced to back up the commitment made at COP28.

“The world is on the right track to tackle climate change and develop a climate-resilient, sustainable and equitable health system,” Dr. Al Marzouqi noted.

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